Disgraced Gov. Andrew Cuomo has gone down fighting, using his farewell address to defiantly declare his treatment as “unfair” and slam the Attorney General’s report alleging he sexually harassed staffers as an orchestrated “political firecracker.”
Cuomo started his address declaring there would be another time to “talk about the truth” before launching into how he believed the handling of allegations leveled against him was “unjust”.
He also insisted that the “intense political pressure and media frenzy” surrounding the allegations had resulted in a “rush to judgment.”
“When government politicizes allegations and the headlines condemn without facts you undermine the justice system. And that doesn’t serve women, and it doesn’t serve men, or society. Of course, everyone has a right to come forward and we applaud their bravery and courage in doing so,” he said.
“Allegations must still be scrutinized and verified, whether made by a woman or a man,” said Cuomo, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. “That is our basic justice system.”
Cuomo added: “I understand that there are moments of intense political pressure and media frenzy that cause a rush to judgment. But that is not right. It’s not fair, or sustainable. Facts still matter.”
The outgoing governor also painted himself as a victim of a politically motivated “stampede” by his opponents.
“A firecracker can start a stampede. But at one point everyone looks around and says, ‘Why are we running?’” he said.
“The truth is ultimately, always revealed. The Attorney General’s report was designed to be a political firecracker on an explosive topic, and it worked. There was a political and media stampede. But the truth will out in time — of that, I am confident.”
Cuomo further portrayed his resignation as proof of his good character and selflessness in service to the state and its residents.
“You know me. I am a fighter, and my instinct is to fight this, because it is unfair and unjust in my mind,” he said.
“But you also know that I love New York, and I serve you. That is the oath that I took. And in this moment, I believe the right thing, is that my service come first.”
He added: “Prolonging this situation could only cause governmental paralysis. And that is just not an option for you, and not an option for the state, especially now. There is real work to be done, and it will require government to function at the highest level.”
The third-term Democrat, who recorded his remarks last week at the Executive Mansion in Albany, used his final speech to list off his achievements as governor, including the green energy plan, increased affordable housing and upgrades to LaGuardia and JFK airports and Penn Station.
He also boasted of New York’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Please don’t forget what we learned together last year and don’t forget what we accomplished. We went from the highest infection rate in the nation to the lowest,” he said.
“We did what no one thought could be done. Why, because when the rest of the nation put their head in the sand and denied science and play politics.”
And although he was hours away from bailing out as the state’s leader, Cuomo offered a series of policy prescriptions for the future.
“We must keep people in businesses thriving in this state, crime must be controlled, and we have to be smart about it,” he said.
And after claiming to have “passed more progressive measures” than any other governor “in the nation,” Cuomo distanced himself from “some people in my own party, who call to defund the police.”
“I believe it is misguided, I believe it is dangerous. Gun violence and crime are savaging inner cities,” he said.
“Look at New York City: the majority of victims are poor black and brown. Reforming police must be the goal, ending discrimination [by] the police, ending the unnecessary use of force, and then building back trust and respect between the police and the community they serve.”
“That’s the real answer,” he added. “And that is easier said than done, but it’s also the truth — and the right way forward.”
Cuomo — whose April budget deal temporarily raised the corporate franchise tax rate 6.5 percent to 7.25 percent on companies with more than $5 million in annual revenues — from also said that “demonizing business is against our collective self-interest.”
“Taking actions that cause businesses to flee the state, taking jobs with them, only weakens our tax base and our ability to do good things for people,” he said.
“We can address income inequality without ending incomes. Taxes can be reduced right away. If Washington does what they promised New Yorkers they would do and repeal the so-called SALT tax, That would lower New York’s taxes $15 billion per year.”
He added: “That would make a major difference and frankly dwarf all of the other federal aid programs. It should have been done eight months ago. We’re gonna have to fight to make it happen. But we must wage that fight.”
Cuomo also urged New Yorkers to “remember what made New York State the Empire State in the first place.”
“New York’s historic success was not a process of evolution, it didn’t just happen. We weren’t born this way. We were born of vision and daring and competence,” he said.
“We built the canals the roads, the bridges and education system and the economy that made us the greatest state in the nation.”
Despite the soaring, campaign-style rhetoric, Cuomo’s top advisor, Melissa DeRosa, said prior to his remarks airing that he has no plans to run for office again, according to NY1.
“He looks forward to spending time with his family and has a lot of fishing to catch up on. He is exploring a number of options, but has no interest in running for office again,” she said.
But former aide Lindsey Boylan, whose online accusations against Cuomo sparked the sexual harassment probe that led him to quit, tweeted her disbelief in those assertions.
“If the governor ‘has no intention to run for public office again,’ as his spokespeople say, why does he need that 18 million plus in campaign funds, (beyond using to smear me and other survivors, of course)?” she wrote.
Cuomo spent the weekend providing updates on tropical storm Henri from within his Manhattan office, as his successor, incoming Gov. Kathy Hochul toured storm preparation operations on Long Island.
He also hired private movers and two U-Haul trucks to cart his personal belongings down to his sister’s — Maria Cuomo Cole, who is married to fashion-designer mogul Kenneth Cole — in Westchester on Friday.
Cuomo announced his resignation two weeks ago, after State Attorney General Letitia James released a bombshell report alleged the governor sexually harassed 11 women —including current and former staffers — and fostered a toxic work environment. He has denied those accusations.
Since then, at least five District Attorney’s offices around the state have announced they are opening their own investigations into the allegations and some of the women mentioned — including Lindsey Boylan, the first woman to publicly accuse Cuomo of sexual misconduct — have filed civil or criminal suits against the governor.
The state Assembly plans to release a report detailing the findings in their multi-pronged impeachment probe — which not only includes the sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo, but also the administration’s handling of nursing home death data related to the COVID-19 crisis, the alleged misuse of state resources tied to the production of the governor’s $5.1 million book deal and construction of the new Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.
However, the Assembly Judiciary Committee will not be drafting articles of impeachment.
Meanwhile, Hochul will be sworn in at midnight during a private ceremony with her family, followed by a public inauguration ceremony in Albany Tuesday.
She is expected to announce her Lieutenant Governor pick later this week, who will reportedly come from downstate.