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New York Governor Cuomo resigns after inquiry finds he sexually harassed 11 women

 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo  after announcing his resignation (REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs)

Faced with mounting legal pressures and demands for his departure from President Joe Biden and others, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo resigned on Tuesday following an inquiry that found he sexually harassed 11 women, capping a startling downfall for one of the most prominent politicians in the United States.

A Democrat who had served since 2011 as governor of the fourth most-populous state, Cuomo made the announcement a week after New York Attorney General Letitia James released the results of a five-month independent investigation that concluded he had engaged in conduct that violated U.S. and state laws.

In a televised, 20-minute address, Cuomo, 63, said his resignation would take effect in 14 days, derailing a long political career that once appeared headed for a possible U.S. presidential campaign.

Cuomo again denied any wrongdoing, though he said he accepted "full responsibility" for what he characterized as ill-conceived attempts to be affectionate or humorous.

He said he had concluded that fighting the accusations while remaining in office would paralyze state government and cost taxpayers millions of dollars at a time when the coronavirus pandemic still poses a major threat.

"I think, given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to government - and therefore that's what I'll do," he said.

Cuomo's resignation spared him from possible removal from office through impeachment proceedings in the Democratic-controlled state legislature, which appeared overwhelmingly likely as lawmakers abandoned him in droves.

The investigation, detailed in a 168-page report, found that Cuomo groped, kissed or made suggestive comments to women including current and former government workers - one a state trooper - and retaliated against at least one woman who accused him of sexual misconduct.

 New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul (Photo: Courtesy)

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, 62 and a Democrat from western New York, will take over as governor of the state of more than 19 million people until the end of Cuomo's term in December 2022 as outlined in the state constitution, becoming the first woman to hold the post.

"I agree with Governor Cuomo's decision to step down," Hochul said in a statement. "It is the right thing to do and in the best interest of New Yorkers."

Cuomo also became the latest powerful man taken down in recent years following the rise of the #MeToo social movement against sexual abuse and harassment that has shaken politics, Hollywood, the business world and the workplace.

Lindsay Boylan, a former aide who was the first woman to accuse Cuomo publicly last December, wrote on Twitter that Cuomo had remained "abusive" until the end by attacking his victims.

"My hope always has been that this will make it safer for other women to report their own harassment and abuse," she wrote.

Cuomo had for months denied escalating accusations of sexual harassment - and renewed those denials after the investigative report was issued. But what was left of his political support crumbled after the findings were made public. Hours later, Biden, a longtime friend, said he believed Cuomo should resign.

 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announcing his resignation in this screen grab taken from a video released by the Office of the NY Governor

Other prominent Democrats including the state's two U.S. senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi also lined up in calling on Cuomo to step down.

"I respect the governor's decision," Biden told reporters on Tuesday at the White House.

In Tuesday's address, Cuomo flatly denied sexually harassing anyone and called the most serious allegations false. But he acknowledged that some of his behavior - including giving hugs and kisses, calling women "honey" and clumsy attempts at humor - may have made some women feel uncomfortable.

"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," he said. "There are generational and cultural shifts that I just didn't fully appreciate."

He also addressed his three daughters.

"I want them to know from the bottom of my heart that I never did, and I never would, intentionally disrespect a woman," he said. "Your dad made mistakes, and he apologized, and he learned from them."

Cuomo's address immediately followed a briefing from his lawyer, Rita Glavin, who sat at a table underneath the seal of the governor's office and sought to deliver a point-by-point rebuttal of each woman's allegations.

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