WE NEED YOUR HELP — Support your hometown newspaper by making a donation.

Federal, state lawmakers want Cuomo to resign over sexual harassment accusations

Congressman Suozzi seeks independent investigation

Posted

U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, who represents the South Shore's 4th District, late Monday called on New York's Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, to resign after a third woman came forward accusing him of sexual harassment.

Another U.S. representative from New York, Tom Suozzi, who represents the North Shore’s 3rd District, which includes parts of Queens, is not ready to ask the governor to resign, but does recognize the gravity of the issue.

Suozzi, a Democrat, appeared on MSNBC’s "Weekends with Alex Witt" on Sunday. Later he tweeted, “Please listen and share your thoughts.”

Republican State Assemblyman Michael Montesano has been calling for Cuomo’s resignation for over a week and a half. He said he sent Cuomo a letter but has yet to receive a reply.

“We have three women now accusing the governor,” Montesano said. “You could see the fear in one of the woman’s eyes.”

He added that Cuomo’s own words are coming back to haunt him. “In the [former congressman and NYC mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner’s] case, Cuomo said the woman who accused Weiner should be believed.”

State Assemblyman Charles Lavine, a Democrat, said that he believes the process will play itself out. "My suggestion to the governor is to do the right thing," Lavine said. "The state attorney general has full responsibility to investigate these troubling allegations against the governor. She alone is in the best position to do so."

Rice, a Democrat, tweeted, "The time has come. The Governor must resign." Below it, she posted a New York Times story detailing the third woman's accusations that Cuomo had inappropriately approached her at a wedding in 2019, wrapping his hands around her cheeks, as seen in a photograph, and asking to kiss her. The incident, according to The Times, was recorded contemporaneously in text messages.

“I was so confused and shocked and embarrassed,” Anna Ruch, 33, told The Times. Ruch, who worked for the Obama administration and on President Joe Biden's 2020 campaign, was not employed by New York state at the time. Cuomo's previous two accusers had worked for him.

Rice has been a vocal critic of Cuomo's alleged behavior since the accusations against him first surfaced last week. 

On Feb. 27, Rice tweeted, "This is no joke. There must be an independent investigation into these allegations. The accused CANNOT appoint the investigator. PERIOD."

The next day, she followed up with, "Enough is enough. The accused is still trying to control this process. Make the referral to the AG with subpoena power ASAP."

Montesano has also been a vocal critic, saying that the accusations are affecting the state budget process. On Tuesday, he released this statement: "I am utterly appalled at the Assembly Majority's continual avoidance in doing their job as legislators and holding Governor Cuomo accountable for his actions. Last week we were barely in session for three hours over the course of three days, and yesterday they canceled session last minute after we attached an amendment to all Assembly bills to remove the governor's emergency powers before he does any more damage to the State of New York.”

He has also signed onto a bill proposed by Assemblyman Ron Kim, a Democrat from Queens, who has alleged that Cuomo threatened him, to repeal the Executive Law amendments passed by the Legislature a year ago granting Cuomo emergency powers during impending state emergencies. Currently, the governor's emergency powers are set to expire at the end of April. Cuomo is under three federal investigations against him regarding his handling of nursing home deaths during the height of the pandemic.

Lavine said state government has traditionally not addressed what has gone on in nursing homes and adult facilities and is confident that the Legislature will now.

"It was a terrible error on the way deaths were calculated but the governor's performance otherwise was extraordinary during the pandemic," Lavine said. "He was the only governor able to counter the lies and dangerous comments coming out of the mouth of the former president." 

He added that demanding that Cuomo step down is not new. 

"I know the other side of the aisle has called for the impeachment [of Gov. Cuomo] long before the mistake with the nursing homes," Lavine said. "That's political. These are the same people who didn't say a word during the years that former President Donald Trump created the most toxic environment."

Montesano said the budget needs to be finalized by April 1, which is not too far away. He does not have faith in Cuomo's leadership. 

“Cuomo has lost his effectiveness and credibility,” Montesano said. “There are too many distractions going on. We need a leader during the budget process. Cuomo's ability to negotiate has been compromised.”

State Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, will oversee the investigation into Cuomo's alleged sexual harassment actions. She will have subpoena power.

Cuomo, who had called for an independent counsel to investigate the accusations, has said that his actions “have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation."

“To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that,” a statement by his office read.