MIDTOWN, Manhattan — The calls for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to step down are increasing, as the number of women accusing him of sexual misconduct have risen.
It’s caused State Attorney General Letitia James to consider adding a third accuser to an investigation into the governor’s alleged actions, and it sparked a protest against Gov. Cuomo outside of his office in Midtown on Tuesday.
The protesters were loud, as they marched in a circle outside of the governor’s 3rd Avenue office early in the evening, shouting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Governor Cuomo has got to go,” and “Resign Governor Cuomo.” Those same words adorned signs that they held, along with at least one declaring the governor a “sex pest.”
However, the protesters were far more vocal than they were numerous. The two dozen demonstrators barely outnumbered the camera crews sent there to cover them.
Meanwhile, the number of elected officials calling for the governor to step down is increasing. The Working Families Party called for his ouster, and at least seven members of the state legislature also called on Governor Cuomo to leave office.
State Sen. Jessica Ramos, a Democrat from Queens, is one of them. She referenced an article in the New York Times, in which a third accuser, Anna Ruch, said that the governor paid her unwanted sexual attention at a wedding.
The encounter was documented in a photograph taken by a friend of the woman, who also said that the encounter made them feel uncomfortable.
“The photo in the New York Times article is pretty damning,” Ramos said in an interview. “He is grabbing a woman’s face without her consent. She has expressed very clearly that she was made to feel uncomfortable.”
Ruch told the Times that the governor touched her back, which was exposed at the time, in her evening gown. She said she removed his hand, and then he held her cheeks and said, “Can I kiss you?” She said she pulled back, and he kissed her anyway, reaching her cheek.
The account was one of a growing list of reasons, Sen. Ramos said, that she is calling for the governor’s resignation.
“Too many New Yorkers haven’t received any economic relief or assistance during this time,” she said. “So many of us have lost loved ones throughout this disaster, and now we learn he’s disrespecting women. At some point, we have to say enough is enough.”
Adding to the calls for resignation from state elected officials was Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, who tweeted, “The time has come. The governor must resign.”
New York’s Junior Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has been at the forefront of the battle for women’s rights, is the latest to speak out, saying in part in a statement, “The behavior described in these allegations against Gov. Cuomo is completely unacceptable and every allegation of sexual harassment must be taken seriously and be reviewed.”
Meanwhile, State Attorney General Letitia James is now setting up an investigation into the accusations of sexual misconduct by the governor. Two women who’d worked in his administration, Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett, have publicly made accusations against him.
The process was outlined by Dan Feldman, in an interview with PIX11 News. He’s a law professor at John Jay College, and former state assembly member, as well as a former deputy attorney general.
“The A.G. designates a person in a law firm, or a [full] law firm, to conduct this investigation of the governor,” Feldman said.
The independent law firm that the attorney general chooses will be able to subpoena documents and other evidence. It will also have the authority to force people to testify, including Gov. Cuomo himself.
However, Feldman warned, while it’s the attorney general’s job to pursue complaints against the governor, the attorney general’s office is also tasked, ironically, with defending him.
It’s why there’s a demand that the investigation be independent.
“The A.G. must build a wall of separation,” Feldman said.
State Sen. Ramos re-emphasized that message.
“The most important factor here,” she said, “is that the person conducting the investigation is free of the governor in any way, shape or form.”
The sexual harassment allegations follow probes of his handling of nursing home deaths during the pandemic, leading onlookers to wonder about Cuomo’s political future.
State Sen. Todd Kaminski maintains “if the facts, as alleged, are true, it’s very difficult to see how Gov. Cuomo can continue. But it’s important to let this play out.”
Political strategist Hank Sheinkopf believes time is on Cuomo’s side. He points out, “It’s going to take some time to complete the investigation. Number two, he’s got a budget to get through and can still be the governor, and who knows what will happen.”
Cuomo had no comment on the calls for his resignation. He has previously said he welcomes and independent investigation. As for the other probe into his handling of nursing home deaths during the pandemic, the legislature has begun to take steps to strip Cuomo of his pandemic emergency powers. A vote on that could come as early as Friday.
Correction: Dan Feldman did not help write the law as previously reported.