The findings of a five-month investigation into allegations of sexual harassment found the governor created a “toxic” workplace and that his office had illegally retaliated against the first accuser to go public.
The report prompted local prosecutors to launch a criminal investigation and reignited calls for Cuomo to resign or be impeached.
It represents a marked fall from grace for Cuomo who won adulation for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and was earmarked for a shot at the White House.
“I think he should resign,” President Joe Biden told reporters hours after the results of the investigation were made publicly available.
“I understand that the state legislature may decide to impeach. I don’t know that for a fact. I’ve not read all that data.”
Asked about Cuomo’s attempt to defend himself by using an image in which he is making physical contact with Biden himself, the president said: “Look, I’m not going to flyspeck this. I am sure there were some embraces that were totally innocent, but apparently, the attorney general decided there were things that weren’t.”
In a video statement, Cuomo, 63, made clear he had no plans to resign and denied he had acted inappropriately.
“The facts are much different than what has been portrayed,” Cuomo added.
Many of the women said they feared retaliation if they reported Cuomo’s behaviour, investigators said, describing his administration as a hostile workplace “rife with fear and intimidation.”
On one occasion, the probe found, Cuomo’s staff took action “intended to discredit and disparage” an accuser — Lindsey Boylan, the first former employee to publicly accuse him of wrongdoing — including leaking confidential personnel files and drafting a letter attacking her credibility.
In his taped response, Cuomo apologised to one accuser Charlotte Bennett, who said the governor asked if she was open to sex with an older man after she confided she had been a sexual assault victim.
But Bennett called the governor’s apology “meaningless”.
“If he were sorry, he would step down. That’s how accountability works,” she told the Associated Press. “I don’t believe he will resign. I think it’s the speaker’s job now to begin impeachment proceedings.”
Cuomo denied other allegations including touching a female state trooper, kissing her on the cheek, and asking for her help in finding a girlfriend.
He lashed out at the investigative process, saying it was fueled by “politics and bias”.
He insisted that he’s physically embraced people his whole life, that his mother and father had done the same and that the gesture was meant to “convey warmth”.