In his final remarks as governor, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo maintained his innocence against allegations of sexual harassment by nearly a dozen women while defending his record after more than a decade in office.
Cuomo, who announced his resignation this month, addressed the allegations made against him in a taped address Monday, accusing New York Attorney General Letitia James of politicizing a statewide investigation into the harassment allegations — saying the investigation was "designed to be a political firecracker on an explosive topic."
"A firecracker can start a stampede, but at one point everyone looks around and says, 'Why are we running?' The truth is ultimately always revealed," Cuomo said. "It was a political and media stampede, but the truth will out in time. Of that, I am confident."
In his speech, Cuomo said that while he believes everyone should have the right to speak out when it comes to allegations involving sexual harassment and assault, all claims should be examined closely.
"Of course, everyone has a right to come forward, and we applaud their bravery and courage in doing so. But allegations must still be scrutinized and verified, whether made by a woman or a man. That is our basic justice system," Cuomo said.
Cuomo had been facing growing calls to resign
Cuomo's sudden departure from office represents a whirlwind turn of events from just over a year ago when he was enjoying widespread praise within the Democratic Party for his administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But in the aftermath of the state attorney general's report, the drumbeat of calls for the governor's resignation ultimately proved insurmountable. In a scathing 165-page report released this month, the attorney general's office concluded that the third-term Democrat sexually harassed 11 women, and in one instance, sought to retaliate against one of his accusers who went public with her allegations.
The report followed a months-long investigation into the governor's actions and outlined what James called violations of both state and federal law.
Prosecutors said their findings substantiated allegations from several women — which included unwanted and nonconsensual touching, groping, kissing and sexual comments.
Kathy Hochul steps in as the state's first female governor
Cuomo will leave office at 11:59 p.m. ET Monday. His successor, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, will be sworn in during a private ceremony at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday as the state's first female governor.
Hochul, who had served a term in Congress before she became Cuomo's running mate in 2014, said in a statement she agreed with the governor's decision to step down.
"It is the right thing to do and in the best interest of New Yorkers," she said. "As someone who has served at all levels of government and is next in the line of succession, I am prepared to lead as New York state's 57th governor."