Governor Andrew Cuomo was ready to defend himself on Tuesday after New York Attorney General Letitia James released a scathing report in which nearly a dozen women accused him of sexual misconduct. In a pre-recorded video, the embattled New York governor denied any wrongdoing. “I want you to know directly from me that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” he said.
In an effort to prove his innocence, Cuomo claimed that the “gestures” in question were meant to convey “warmth.” He spoke over a photo montage of himself affectionately greeting people of various demographics. “I do it with everyone,” Cuomo said. “Black and white. Young and old. Straight and LGBTQ. Powerful people. Friends. Strangers. People who I meet on the street.”
Andrew Cuomo really thought this montage was a good idea pic.twitter.com/yTzzP9mdaD
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) August 3, 2021
The “gestures” that led James to describe Cuomo’s behavior as “in violation of both federal and state law” go far beyond pecking constituents on the cheek. The report includes several graphic accounts of groping and inappropriate touching, as well as detailing a toxic workplace predicated on secrecy and loyalty to the governor. James noted on Tuesday that her office was able to corroborate the accounts of the 11 women who accused the governor of sexual misconduct.
Cuomo also released a lengthy written response to the report that doubled down on the idea that images of himself and other politicians hugging each other in some way exonerates him from allegations that include reaching under an assistant’s blouse to grab her breast. Among the dozens of images featured in the 85-page response are former President Obama greeting various dignitaries, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi hugging, even George W. Bush consoling a hurricane survivor.
“The way he interacts with others is not gender-based,” the response notes. “He has hugged or kissed male and female members of his staff, Al Gore, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, Andrea Stewart Cousins and Carl Heastie, as well as constituents he meets on the street, and family and friends, as has been well documented. The Governor’s interaction has been on public display virtually on a daily basis for nearly 20 years. (Ex. 1.) The Governor’s conduct in this regard is unremarkable: Democratic and Republican politicians, male and female alike, use handshakes, hugs, and kisses to connect with others.”
Gov. Cuomo has released an 85-page written response to the independent investigation, but it’s only 26 pages of text. Most of the rest is dozens of photos of him hugging people and other politicians hugging people: https://t.co/qjNW1idpOY pic.twitter.com/AmyfNpKzXG
— Brian M. Rosenthal (@brianmrosenthal) August 3, 2021
The report includes no images of Biden, Obama, or any other politician reaching inside a woman’s blouse to grope their breast. It also fails to include imagines of a head of state running their hands across a woman’s stomach or down their back, as Cuomo reportedly did to a female state trooper assigned to protect him.
NEW: Cuomo harassing a female state trooper pic.twitter.com/YtvWB5ixjV
— Harry Siegel (@harrysiegel) August 3, 2021
The desperation of Cuomo’s defense-by-photo-gallery highlights just how damaging the attorney general’s investigation is for the governor. The report found the allegations against him credible, and he has apparently decided that the best defense he can muster is to conflate the disturbing conduct detailed in the report with innocent hugging.
A growing list of critics has an alternative suggestion: resign.