Two Democratic leaders of New York’s statehouse called on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) to consider resigning Sunday following allegations from former staff members of sexual harassment and a toxic work environment.

State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and House Speaker Carl E. Heastie said scandals swirling around one of the country’s top Democratic officials are disruptive, as questions have also emerged about how Cuomo’s administration handled the reporting of nursing home deaths linked to the coronavirus pandemic. Five women, four of whom worked for Cuomo, have publicly alleged inappropriate conduct by the governor.

The statements came one day after The Washington Post reported that former aides said Cuomo has for decades created a toxic workplace with his behavior.

“New York is still in the midst of this pandemic and is still facing the societal, health and economic impacts of it,” Stewart-Cousins wrote in a statement. “We need to govern without daily distraction. For the good of the state Governor Cuomo must resign.”

Shortly after Stewart-Cousins’s statement was released, Heastie announced he “shares the sentiment.”

“We have many challenges to address, and I think it is time for the governor to seriously consider whether he can effectively meet the needs of the people of New York,” Heastie said.

People close to Cuomo, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said he has no plans to step down after the latest calls for resignation.

Lawmakers and members of the media reacted to the allegations against New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) on March 7. (Allie Caren/The Washington Post)

Cuomo’s administration also faces a federal investigation of the number of reported nursing home deaths. As New York became an epicenter for the virus, Cuomo was touted by Democrats as a national leader early in the pandemic.

But accusations of underreporting nursing home deaths plagued the three-term governor beginning in the summer, and criticism, especially from Republicans, mounted. In February, after the first reports of misconduct, Democrats began to challenge Cuomo, moving this week to strip him of unilateral emergency powers granted during the pandemic.

Earlier Sunday, Cuomo told reporters that stepping down would be “anti-democratic.” He also rebutted the claims against him of the former staff members, including Karen Hinton, a former press secretary for Cuomo during his time at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Hinton told The Post that she was summoned to a hotel room in 2000 after a work event and was allegedly hugged by Cuomo for an uncomfortable period.

When asked whether she viewed the alleged encounter as harassment, Hinton did not explicitly describe it that way but said there was a “power dynamic” at play, even though she was a consultant at the time, not an employee. “It was the same to me,” Hinton said, adding that she was concerned about “the personal and professional problems that could have been created.” She described Cuomo’s move as a “power play” for “manipulation and control.”

Cuomo dismissed Hinton’s claims on Sunday, calling her a longtime adversary, a reference to her time working as a press secretary for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Hinton responded that she had no plans to run for office or work for anybody who would run against Cuomo.

“Truth is the ‘longtime adversary’ that Cuomo fears the most,” Hinton said.

Cuomo did not deny an accusation by Ana Liss, who worked in his executive chambers between 2013 and 2015, that he touched her on her lower back at a reception and posed for a picture. He said it was “common practice” to take pictures with people at ceremonial events.

He said that other state lawmakers demanding his resignation or impeachment were politically motivated and that he planned to wait for the conclusion of an investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) into the claims against Cuomo. A coalition of women’s rights and sexual abuse survivor advocates had asked James to adopt rules to protect accusers and avoid political interference in the investigation — and demanded Cuomo’s resignation if the claims were upheld.

“There is no way I resign,” Cuomo said Sunday. “Let’s do the attorney general investigation, let’s get the findings, and then we’ll go from there.”

Correction: A previous version of this article said five women who worked for Cuomo have alleged inappropriate conduct. It’s five women in total, and four worked for Cuomo. This article has been updated.

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