Gov. Andrew Cuomo's full resignation remarks: 'The best way I can help now is if I step aside'

The governor maintained that he never sexually harassed his accusers.

August 10, 2021, 2:02 PM

Andrew Cuomo has said he will step down as governor of New York after many called for his resignation and before a potential impeachment trial.

Cuomo began his press conference Tuesday morning by continuing to defend himself against 11 women who've accused him of sexual harassment, stating that the report by New York Attorney General Letitia James was "false" and biased.

The disgraced governor admitted that he "truly offended" the women but contended that there have been "generational and cultural shifts" that precluded him from understanding the necessity for "personal boundaries."

"In my mind, I've never crossed the line with anyone," Cuomo said. "But I didn't realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn."

PHOTO: Governor Andrew Cuomo announces that he is leaving office after sexual harassment allegations against him in New York, Aug. 10, 2021.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announces that he is leaving office after sexual harassment allegations against him in New York, Aug. 10, 2021.
Office of the Governor of New York

About halfway through his 20-minute speech he said he couldn't govern effectively given the current situation, which would "generate months of political and legal controversy," adding that it was no longer in the "best interest" of New Yorkers for him to continue.

Cuomo ended his address by telling New Yorkers that it was the "honor" of his life to serve as governor.

He will step down in 14 days and will be succeeded by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, the first woman to hold that post in state history.

PHOTO: Governor Andrew Cuomo announces that he is leaving office after sexual harassment allegations against him in New York, Aug. 10, 2021.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announces that he is leaving office after sexual harassment allegations against him in New York, Aug. 10, 2021.
Office of the Governor of New York

Here are Cuomo's full remarks:

Good morning. Let me begin by thanking Rita Glavin for that powerful presentation. I'd like to address several issues today. First, I've always told New Yorkers the facts, before my opinion. So let's start New York tough with the truth. The Attorney General did a report on complaints made against me by certain women for my conduct. The report said I sexually harassed 11 women. That was the headline people heard and saw, and reacted to. The reaction was outrage. It should have been.

However, it was also false. My lawyers, as you just heard from Rita Glavin, have reviewed the report over the past several days and have already raised serious issues and flaws that should concern all New Yorkers. Because when there is a bias or a lack of fairness in the justice system, it is a concern for everyone -- not just those immediately affected. The most serious allegations made against me have no credible factual basis in the report.

And there is a difference between alleged improper conduct and concluding sexual harassment. Now, don't get me wrong, this is not to say that there are not 11 women who I truly offended. There are. And for that I deeply, deeply apologize. I thought a hug and putting my arm around a staff person while taking a picture was friendly. But she found it to be too forward. I kissed a woman on the cheek at a wedding, and I thought I was being nice, but she felt it was too aggressive.

I have slipped and called people honey, sweetheart and darling. I meant it to be endearing. But women found it dated and offensive. I said on national TV, to a doctor wearing PEE and giving me a COVID nasal swab, you make that gown look good. I was joking, obviously, otherwise I wouldn't have said it on national TV.

But she found it disrespectful. I take full responsibility for my actions. I have been too familiar with people. My sense of humor can be insensitive and off-putting. I do hug and kiss people casually, women and men. I have done it all my life. It is who I've been since I can remember. In my mind, I've never crossed the line with anyone. But, I didn't realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn.

There are generational and cultural shifts that I just didn't fully appreciate. And I should have. No excuses. The report did bring to light a matter that I was not aware of and that I would like to address. A female trooper relayed a concern that she found disturbing, and so do I. Please let me provide some context. The governor's trooper detail had about 65 troopers on it. But of the 65, only six women and nine black troopers.

I'm very proud of the diversity of my administration. It is more diverse than any administration in history. And I'm very proud of the fact that I have more women in senior positions than any governor before me. The lack of diversity on the state police detail was an ongoing disappointment for me. In many ways, the governor's detail is the face of state government that people see. When I attend an event, people see the detail that's with me. I was continuously trying to recruit more to diversify. On one occasion, I met two female troopers who were on duty at an event.

Both seemed competent and impressive and I asked the state police to see if they were interested in joining. I often meet people, men and women, and if they show promise, I refer them to be interviewed. The state police handled the interviewing and the hiring, and one of the two troopers eventually joined the detail. I got to know her over time and she's a great professional. And I would sometimes banter with her when we were in the car. We spent a lot of time driving around the state.

This female trooper was getting married, and I made some jokes about the negative consequences of married life. I meant it to be humorous. She was offended, and she was right. The trooper also said that in an elevator I touched her back, and when I was walking past her in a doorway, I touched her stomach. Now, I don't recall doing it, but if she said I did it, I believe her.

At public events, troopers will often hold doors open or guard the doorways. When I walk past them, I often will give them a grip of the arm, a pat on the face, a touch on the stomach, a slap on the back. It's my way of saying "I see you. I appreciate you, and I thank you." I'm not comfortable just walking past and ignoring them. Of course, usually they are male troopers. In this case I don't remember doing it at all.

I didn't do it consciously with the female trooper. I did not mean any sexual connotation. I did not mean any intimacy by it. I just wasn't thinking. It was totally thoughtless, in the literal sense of the word. But it was also insensitive. It was embarrassing to her, and it was disrespectful. It was a mistake, plain and simple. I have no other words to explain it. I want to personally apologize to her and her family.

I have the greatest respect for her and for the New York State Police. Now, obviously in a highly political matter like this, there are many agendas, and there are many motivations at play. If anyone thought otherwise, they would be naive, and New Yorkers are not naive. But I want to thank the women who came forward with sincere complaints.

It's not easy to step forward, but you did an important service, and you taught me, and you taught others an important lesson. Personal boundaries must be expanded and must be protected. I accept full responsibility. Part of being New York tough is being New York smart. New York smart tells us that this situation and moment are not about the facts. It's not about the truth. It's not about thoughtful analysis. It's not about how do we make the system better. This is about politics, and our political system today is too often driven by the extremes, rashness has replaced reasonableness. Loudness has replaced soundness. Twitter has become the public square for policy debate. There is an intelligent discussion to be had on gender-based actions, on generational and cultural behavioral differences, on setting higher standards and finding reasonable resolutions.

But the political environment is too hot, and it is too reactionary for that now, and it is unfortunate. Now, you know me. I'm a New Yorker, born and bred. I am a fighter, and my instinct is to fight through this controversy, because I truly believe it is politically motivated. I believe it is unfair and it is untruthful. And I believe it demonizes behavior that is unsustainable for society. If I could communicate the facts through the frenzy, New Yorkers would understand, I believe that. But when I took oath as governor, then it changed. I became a fighter, but I became a fighter for you, and it is your best interests that I must serve.

This situation, by its current trajectory, will generate months of political and legal controversy. That is what is going to happen. That is how the political wind is blowing. It will consume government. it will cost taxpayers millions of dollars. It will brutalize people. The state assembly yesterday outlined weeks of process that will then lead to months of litigation -- time and money that government should spend managing COVID, guarding against the delta variant, reopening up states, fighting gun violence and saving New York City. All that time would be wasted. This is one of the most challenging times for government in a generation. Government really needs to function today. Government needs to perform. It is a matter of life and death, government operations, and wasting energy on distractions is the last thing that state government should be doing.

And I cannot be the cause of that. New York tough means New York loving. And I love New York. And I love you. And everything I have ever done has been motivated by that love, and I would never want to be unhelpful in any way. I think that given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing. Therefore that's what I'll do, because I work for you. And doing the right thing is doing the right thing for you. Because as we say, it's not about me. It's about we.

Kathy Hochul, my lieutenant governor, is smart and competent. This transition must be seamless. We have a lot going on. I'm very worried about the delta variant, and so should you be. But she can come up to speed quickly, and my resignation will be effective in 14 days.

To my team and the hundreds of dedicated administration officials, I want to say this: Thank you. Thank you. And be proud. We made New York state the progressive capital of the nation. No other state government accomplished more to help people, and that is what it's all about. Just think about what we did. We passed marriage equality, creating a new civil right. Legalized love for the LGBTQ community, and we generated a force for change that swept the nation. We passed the SAFE Act years ago, the smartest gun safety law in the United States of America, and it banned the madness of assault weapons. We've saved countless lives with that law.

Fifteen-dollar minimum wage, the highest minimum wage in the nation, lifting millions of families' standard of living, putting more food on the table and clothes on their backs, and we led the nation with in economic justice with that reform. We have managed every emergency mother nature could throw at us -- fires, floods, hurricanes, super storms and pandemics. We balanced the state budget, and we got it done on time -- more than any other administration -- because government should work and perform. Free college tuition for struggling families. Nobody in this state will be denied their college because of their income. We have built new airports, rail, transit, roads all across this state, faster and better than ever before.

And more than any state in the nation, the most effective green economy program in the nation. We did more for Black and Latino families and any other administration. We did more for working families. We did more for our union brothers and sisters. We did more to battle racism and anti-Semitism. Today so much of the politics is just noise -- just static. That's why people begin to doubt. That's why people tune out. What matters is improving people's lives, and that's what you did. You made this state a better state for the generations that follow, and that is undeniable, inarguable, and true.

In in these ugly, crazy times. I'd like to thank the speaker and the leader for their leadership. Let me say this on a personal note. In many ways I see the world through the eyes of my daughters. They are 26 and 26, twins, and 23. I have lived this experience with and through them. I have sat on the couch with them, hearing the ugly accusations for weeks. I have seen the look in their eyes and the expression on their faces, and it hurt. I want my three jewels to know this. My greatest goal is for them to have better future than the generations of women before them. It is still in many ways a man's world. It always has been.

We have sexism that is institutionalized. My daughters have more talents and natural gifts than I ever had. I want to make sure that society allows them to fly as high as their wings will take them. There should be no assumptions, no stereotypes, no limitations. I want them to know from the bottom of my heart that I never did and I never would intentionally disrespect a woman or treat any woman differently than I would want them treated. And that is the God's honest truth. Your dad made mistakes, and he apologized, and he learned from it. And that's what life is all about. And I know the political process is flawed and I understand your cynicism and distrust and disappointment now. But don't give up, because government is still the best vehicle for making positive social change.

Lastly, I want to remind all New Yorkers of an important lesson and one that I will carry with me for the rest of my life, and that's what you New Yorkers did in battling COVID. The enemy landed in New York state. COVID launched the attack here. It came on us from Europe, and we had no idea. It was an ambush. And it was up to New Yorkers to fight back. We were on our own, and it was war. Nurses, doctors, essential workers became our frontline heroes.

Hospitals became the battlegrounds. Streets were still and sirens filled the city's silence. You refused to give up, and you fought back, and you won, going from the highest infection rate in the nation to one of the lowest. No one thought we could do it, but you did it. You lead the nation, and you show the way forward. And how you did it is what's most important. You did it together. Not as Black New Yorkers or white New Yorkers. Not as LGBTQ New Yorkers or straight New Yorkers or Democrats or Republicans or Upstate or downstate or Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, Catholic New Yorkers, but as one community. One community, one family, the family of New York. You overcame the naysayers and the haters and unified, and you rose and you overcame. You saved lives, and that was powerful in its effect. It was beautiful to see. And it was an honor to lead. Please remember that lesson. Hold it dear and hold it up high for this nation to sees, cause it is New York state at her finest, creating her legacy, fulfilling her destiny, giving life and animation to the lady in the harbor saying, "We can be better! We can reach higher!"

That is our founding premise and our enduring promise. That is the salvation of this nation that it so desperately needs to hear. Thank you for the honor of serving you. It has been the honor of my life. God bless you.

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