Governor Andrew Cuomo has abused his power and must resign. He has lied to the people of New York and to the lawmakers who depend on his reports to make policy. Then, when he was caught, he lied about when, how, and why he lied. Cuomo and his staff have used state resources to threaten and retaliate against political enemies—as well as the women who have accused him of sexual harassment.
He is petty, controlling, and grandiose. Even worse, he equates bullying with competence.
To be effective, a governor must have the trust of the lawmakers he works with. Cuomo has lost that trust. More than 120 New York lawmakers have demanded his resignation, along with most of the state’s congressional delegation, including Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and the head of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler. The head of the State Finance committee has said she will not speak to Cuomo or his top aides because they are untrustworthy. At a critical time for the state, he keeps bleeding key public health staffers, who can’t bear his disrespect for science.
Right now he is trying to use the fact that he is being investigated by several different entities, including the New York state attorney general, the FBI, and the Department of Justice, to stall for time. If there were questions of fact that could somehow render Cuomo trustworthy and non-abusive, his argument might make sense. But what we already know is more than enough to disqualify him from office.
In April 2020, a month after the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic, Cuomo issued a health directive requiring nursing homes and homes for people with developmental disabilities to take Covid-19 patients. This ended up being a death sentence for many people. At the same time, he pushed an industry-sponsored bill through the legislature shielding nursing home CEOs—many of them donors to his campaign—from legal liability for dangerous decisions.
In June, the State Health Department reported 9,250 nursing home deaths to the governor’s office. Cuomo’s staff panicked—not because so many people were dying, but because the total was the highest in the country and would make him look bad just as he was riding high in the polls and on the verge of closing a major book deal touting his success handling Covid.
Instead of releasing the Health Department numbers, his office rewrote the report to announce that only 6,200 nursing home patients had died. Lawmakers who needed that data to make policy questioned the figures, but the governor insisted on their accuracy.
Only five months later, after New York Attorney General Letitia James released a report showing deaths had been undercounted by as much as 50 percent, did Cuomo correct the numbers.
His first policy choice was disastrous, but it was the cover-up—half a year of continuously lying to the public—that requires his resignation.
What’s more, his office initially claimed he was hiding the figures out of fear the White House would weaponize the numbers against him. Reporting from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal revealed that was a lie, too. Meanwhile, over 15,000 New Yorkers in nursing homes have died of Covid.
Cuomo has a long history of bullying and terrorizing people. But he now faces several credible allegations of sexual assault and harassment of employees.
Many of the interactions are undisputed and backed up by independent reporting. For instance, it is undisputed, even by Cuomo, that he asked a 25-year-old entry-level employee if she was open to sex with older men. That constitutes sexual harassment under New York state law. Reports that Cuomo’s office leaked personnel files about another accuser, Lindsey Boylan, have not been disputed by the governor; nor have reports that Cuomo’s staff (paid by New York taxpayers) made unsolicited calls to former and current state employees and encouraged them to discredit Boylan.
This kind of vicious retaliation is part of a pattern. When Cuomo told Assemblyman Ron Kim that he would destroy him for talking to the press about the nursing home cover-up, that was not an empty threat. When the New York State Public Employees Federation endorsed me in 2014, Cuomo retaliated by reclassifying 2,500 employees of that union as management. The message is clear: If you dare cross me, you will be destroyed.
In a recent press conference, Cuomo implicitly threatened to leak confidential files from the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, a body that is supposed to provide independent oversight—but acts instead as an extension of the governor. Over the weekend, The New York Times reported that Larry Schwartz, the official in charge of New York’s vaccine program, has been leaning on Democratic officials to declare their support for the governor, further politicizing the state’s response to the pandemic. Local officials are scared that failing to support Cuomo will impact their access to vaccines—especially since Schwartz, who has no public health background, is a known enforcer for Cuomo who was involved in shutting down the Moreland Commission anti-corruption investigation when it got too close to the governor. Even so Cuomo’s signature upstate jobs plan, Buffalo Billion, ended with his right-hand man in prison for bribery.
With so many Cuomo revelations coming out every day, it can be hard to keep them straight—and he’d like it to stay that way—but there is a single, devastating theme throughout all of them: his abuse of the extraordinary power given him by the people of New York.
The investigation by Attorney General James and her two stellar appointed investigators must indeed go forward. The criminal investigations must go forward. But there is no investigative result that leaves us with a governor we can trust not to abuse power and lie.
For the sake of the state, Andrew Cuomo must resign and let Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul replace him.