In farewell address, Cuomo doubles down on defense while highlighting accomplishments
In his final words to New Yorkers, Gov. Andrew Cuomo stood by his defense that the multiple allegations of sexual harassment that led to his resignation were politically motivated, and said he’s confident he’ll be exonerated from the claims at some point in the future.
Those claims were found to be credible in a report issued by the Attorney General’s Office in early August, but Cuomo said, again, that the probe was spoiled from the start.
“A firecracker can start a stampede,” Cuomo said. “But at one point, everyone looks around and says, ‘why are we running?’”
"The attorney general's report was designed to be a political firecracker on an explosive topic."
It’s a claim that Cuomo and his aides have made repeatedly in recent weeks, both before and after the report was released. They’ve said, without evidence, that the investigation started with a predetermined conclusion intended to end his time in office.
The Attorney General’s Office, after defending the report for the past several weeks, said in a statement last week that it would no longer respond to those claims.
But Cuomo, on Monday, doubled down. Not only did he say the report shouldn’t be trusted by the public, he also said, without an explanation, that he believes the claims would be proven false after he leaves office.
“There was a political and media stampede,” Cuomo said. “But the truth will out in time, of that I am confident.”
Cuomo has about $18 million in campaign cash, but reportedly has no interest in seeking office again. That means he could either transfer those funds to others running for office, donate them to charity, or use them to front a drawn-out defense of the claims made against him.
As recently as Friday, his attorney, Rita Glavin, said she would continue to publicly push back on the attorney general’s report, and a separate, unfinished investigation by the State Assembly into several claims involving the governor.
But Cuomo, in a different tone, also used his farewell address to highlight the achievements of his decade in office, from marriage equality to a higher minimum wage.
The first year he took office, Cuomo helped carry marriage equality to the finish line after decades of pursuit by LGBTQ+ members of the Legislature. Cuomo often credits himself for the bill’s passage, saying he convinced Republicans in the State Senate to support it.
At the time, Republicans controlled the State Senate.
Behind the scenes, it’s been said that Cuomo strong-armed lawmakers to vote for the bill. That set the tone for several of his other accomplishments in office.
After the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Connecticut, Cuomo and state lawmakers passed what was considered the strictest gun control law in the country at the time: the NY SAFE Act. He’s said he had to convince Republicans to support that as well.
Four years later, Cuomo convinced Republicans to sign onto a plan to raise the statewide minimum wage to $15 per hour. That worked out in New York City, but workers who live in upstate New York were left with a lower minimum wage through negotiations.
“I want you to know from the bottom of my heart, that every day, I worked my hardest. I gave it my all and I tried my best to deliver for you,” Cuomo said. “And that is the God's honest truth.”
He became a national figure in 2020, when his daily briefings on the COVID-19 pandemic were broadcast on national news networks. New York was the epicenter of the pandemic at the time and, for many, Cuomo inspired hope through the crisis.
But that came to an end in December, when Lindsey Boylan, a former state economic development official, accused Cuomo of sexual harassment.
About a month later, New York Attorney General Letitia James issued a report that accused the Cuomo administration of mishandling state data on COVID-19 deaths of nursing home residents to downplay the actual number of fatalities.
About a month later, when Cuomo appeared to regain some of his steam, another woman, Charlotte Bennett, accused him of sexual harassment. After that, several other women came forward with similar claims.
It wasn’t long until Cuomo was publicly accused of using state resources, like staff, to write his personal memoir on the pandemic released last year. Cuomo has denied those claims, which are still under investigation by the Assembly and the Attorney General’s Office.
And Cuomo was also accused of covering up concerns over the structural integrity of the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, formerly the Tappan Zee.
Cuomo has denied wrongdoing in each of the categories, saying each allegation has been politically motivated to get him out of office.
“When government politicizes allegations and the headlines condemn without facts, you undermine the justice system,” Cuomo said. “And that doesn't serve women and it doesn’t serve men or society.”
Cuomo will officially leave office Monday night at 11:59 p.m., allowing Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul to step into the role at midnight.