At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, there were calls to replace then-Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Cuomo’s popularity was soaring amid praise by the mainstream media for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
What a difference a year makes. Now that the truth has come out about Cuomo’s deadly nursing home policy cover-up and numerous women have come forward credibly accusing Cuomo of sexual harassment, he is facing an investigation and potential impeachment.
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It’s not just Republicans calling for Cuomo to be removed.
Far-Left Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., is the latest to come out against Gov. Andrew Cuomo. She said over the weekend that she thought his impeachment and removal from office could be appropriate.
“I think if these investigations bear out and if the details of these allegations are true — as well as deliberate misconduct in these nursing home numbers — it really starts to call into question the leadership that we currently have,” she told Newsweek.
“I think this is not an easy conversation or decision by any means and that is why we also look towards our state legislator’s leadership here in the state of New York with state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and our Assembly leader Carl Heastie,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
When directly asked if she would rule out impeachment or calling for Cuomo to quit, she said no.
“I don’t think we rule anything out in either direction until we get the full facts of the situation,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
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On Sunday, Cuomo acknowledged for the first time that some of his behavior with women “may have been insensitive or too personal,” and said he would cooperate with a sexual harassment investigation led by the state’s attorney general.
In a statement released amid mounting criticism from within his own party, the Democrat claimed that he had never inappropriately touched or propositioned anyone. But he said he had teased people about their personal lives in an attempt to be “playful.”
“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that,” he said.
Cuomo is facing the most serious challenge of his decade in office following claims he sexually harassed at least two women who worked for him. Democrats in New York and around the nation aren’t rallying to his side, leaving him increasingly isolated from traditional allies.
His partial admission of wrongdoing came after a day of wrangling over who should investigate his workplace behavior.
By day’s end, Cuomo lost — Attorney General Letitia James control the inquiry.
James said she expected to receive a formal referral that would give her office subpoena power and allow her to deputize an outside law firm for “a rigorous and independent investigation.”
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“This is not a responsibility we take lightly,” said James, a Democrat who has been, at times, allied with Cuomo but is independently elected and had emerged as a consensus choice to lead a probe.
Calls for an investigation mounted after a second former employee of Cuomo’s administration went public Saturday with harassment claims.
Charlotte Bennett, a low-level aide in the governor’s administration until November, told The New York Times Cuomo asked questions about her sex life, including whether she ever had sex with older men, and made other comments she interpreted as gauging her interest in an affair.
Her accusation came days after another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, a former economic development adviser, elaborated on harassment allegations she first made in December. Boylan said Cuomo subjected her to an unwanted kiss and comments about her appearance.
Cuomo, 63, said he had intended to be a mentor for Bennett, who is 25. He has denied Boylan’s allegations.
Over several hours Sunday, James and other leading party officials rejected two of Cuomo’s proposals for how an investigation might proceed.
Under his first plan, a retired federal judge picked by Cuomo, Barbara Jones, would have reviewed his workplace behavior. In the second proposal, announced Sunday morning in an attempt to appease legislative leaders, Cuomo asked James and the state’s chief appeals court judge, Janet DiFiore, to jointly appoint a lawyer to investigate and issue a public report.
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James rejected both plans, demanding a formal referral giving her office authority to subpoena documents and witness testimony.
Many of the biggest names in New York politics lined up behind James.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, both Democrats, said they wanted the attorney general to handle the investigation. Republican leaders had, for days, called on James to launch a probe. On Sunday, Republican state Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt called on Cuomo to resign.
New York’s two U.S. senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both said an independent investigation was essential.
“These allegations are serious and deeply concerning. As requested by Attorney General James, the matter should be referred to her office so that she can conduct a transparent, independent and thorough investigation with subpoena power,” Gillibrand said.
Cuomo’s statement that women had misinterpreted comments that were intended to be jokes was met with outrage from some people, who said he appeared to be blaming the women.
“Is it ‘playful’ to touch one’s employees’ legs & kiss them on the lips against their will? Bc better men than A Cuomo have been fired for that,” tweeted former Fox News and NBC journalist Megyn Kelly, whose sexual harassment allegations against late Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes helped lead to his ouster.
The furor comes amid a new round of criticism over Cuomo’s leadership style and actions his administration took to protect his reputation as a leader in the coronavirus pandemic.
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Cuomo won praise from the mainstream media as a strong hand during last spring’s crisis of rising case counts and overflowing morgues. He cashed in after his book, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” was published in October.
But in recent weeks his administration was found that it had undercounted the fatalities to blunt accusations that some of his administration’s policies had made the situation worse.
James fueled some of that criticism by issuing a report saying the Cuomo administration had undercounted deaths.
Now, his support is eroding faster.
“Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett’s detailed accounts of sexual harassment by Gov. Cuomo are extremely serious and painful to read,” Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter Sunday. “There must be an independent investigation — not one led by an individual selected by the Governor, but by the office of the Attorney General.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article