On last day in office, Cuomo rages against investigation that led to his downfall
In his farewell address, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday once again railed at the sexual harassment investigation that led to his downfall. But as he continued in his 15-plus minute speech, he encouraged the state and its leaders to continue the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and recommended steps that should be taken – including mandatory vaccinations for teachers.
Cuomo is set to leave office Monday night, two weeks after he announced he would step down rather than fight – despite steadfastly maintaining his innocence – what would be a prolonged battle over sexual harassment allegations.
His “instinct,” he said, was to fight what he called “unfair and unjust” allegations, which were documented by an independent investigation and published earlier this month by Attorney General Letitia James. That report, which he called “a political firecracker,” found 11 women with credible claims of harassment against him.
Allegations still need to be vetted – “Facts still matter,” he said – adding that the ensuing media frenzy led to rushes to judgment. While he did not mention impeachment specifically, he said that the state’s government needs to be working on solutions to problems like COVID-19 and worsening gun violence in communities.
“Prolonging the situation could only cause governmental paralysis,” the governor said. “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 impeachment investigation also would have likely included more charges against the governor. The Assembly Judiciary Committee has spent months also looking into the governor’s handling of nursing homes during the early stages of the emergency and whether the administration sought to conceal the impact those policies had on the number of deaths due to the coronavirus. There also have been questions raised about a $5 million deal Cuomo received to write a book on managing the COVID-19 crisis.
On the pandemic, the governor did not address the nursing home investigation. Instead, he touted the state’s success in flattening the curve and turning the highest case rates in the nation to the lowest.
While what political power and influence he had has waned over the weeks and months, Cuomo called on the state to mandate vaccinations for teachers, require masks in schools located in communities where there’s a high risk of spread and call for private businesses to mandate proof of vaccinations for large gatherings.
“This simply will not happen without a state law mandating that it happens,” he said. “Local politics are too intense. Private businesses cannot and will not enforce the law. Local police must be mandated to do that, but we must take these actions.”
The outgoing governor also called on lawmakers to maintain the state’s position as an economic leader for the country, noting income inequality can be dealt with in other ways that high taxation. He also urged them to fight to make sure the federal government does end the state and local tax deductions cap on federal tax returns.
He also warned against efforts to defund the police, saying it was misguided and dangerous. Gun violence is wrecking cities like New York, and law enforcement is needed to deal with that, but reforms to end discrimination and unnecessary force can still be implemented, he said. Trust must be rebuilt among the officers and the people they serve.
“That’s the real answer,” he said. “That is easier said than done, but it’s also the truth and the right way forward.”
While no reports have indicated he has officially submitted his resignation letter to lawmakers, as is required by state law, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul is scheduled to take the oath of office in a private ceremony at 12:01 am ET Tuesday to become the next governor.
Cuomo did say he expected her to do well and wished her success.
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