WASHINGTON — Sen. Charles Schumer joined calls on scandal-plagued New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to step down.
Schumer, the Senate majority leader and the most senior Jew in US government, is the most prominent Democrat so far to call on Cuomo to quit in the face of allegations that Cuomo covered up the mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic in his state and that he sexually harassed at least six women, including a number of subordinates.
“Confronting and overcoming the COVID crisis requires sure and steady leadership. We commend the brave actions of the individuals who have come forward with serious allegations of abuse and misconduct,” Schumer said late Friday in a joint statement with the junior New York Democrat, Kirsten Gillibrand, also a Democrat. “Due to the multiple, credible sexual harassment and misconduct allegations, it is clear that Gov. Cuomo has lost the confidence of his governing partners and the people of New York. Gov. Cuomo should resign.”
Schumer, the Senate majority leader, and Kirsten Gillibrand, a leading voice of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and abuse, joined others including US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in calling on the three-term Democratic governor to resign.
Cuomo has rejected calls to step down and has said an outside investigation by the state’s attorney-general should run its course. Top Democrats in the state legislature have also called on him to resign and have initiated proceedings that could lead to impeachment.
Cuomo, 63, the divorced father of three daughters in their 20s, again repeated his denial of the allegations on Friday and said it was "reckless and dangerous" for politicians to ask him to resign before they have all the facts.
"Women have a right to come forward and be heard, and I encourage that fully. But I also want to be clear: there is still a question of the truth. I did not do what has been alleged, period," Cuomo said on a call with reporters.
"Wait for the facts. An opinion without facts is irresponsible," he said.
Asked on Friday if he ever had consensual romantic relationships with any of the women, Cuomo responded by saying only that he never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable, and was sorry if he did.
Hours after the governor's call with reporters, Schumer and Gillibrand became the highest-profile national politicians to urge him to resign.
A growing list of women including former aides have accused the governor of sexual misconduct, ranging from unwelcome flirtatious behavior at work to groping.
Reporter Jessica Bakeman became the latest on Friday, writing a first-person account for New York magazine. She said Cuomo had often put his hands on her, including one time when taking a picture with her at a 2014 holiday party when she said he remarked, "I'm sorry. Am I making you uncomfortable? I thought we were going steady."
Bakeman said she did not want to smile for the camera with Cuomo's hands on her, but decided it was easier to take a quick picture than challenge a powerful politician.
"I never thought the governor wanted to have sex with me. It wasn't about sex. It was about power," she wrote. "He wanted me to know that he could take my dignity away at any moment with an inappropriate comment or a hand on my waist."
The new calls for Cuomo to resign came a day after more than 55 Democratic New York state lawmakers urged him to step down, and the state legislature said it would open an impeachment investigation into the allegations.
The legislative inquiry will run parallel to an investigation led by the office of New York State Attorney General Letitia James.
The two senators joined at least 16 of the 27 members of New York's US congressional delegation in urging Cuomo to quit, calling into question the political future of the high profile Democratic figure, who gained national prominence for his leadership during the peak of his state's COVID-19 crisis.
While 15 US House members from New York issued their statements on Friday, a House aide told Reuters there was no formal, coordinated effort within the delegation to pressure Cuomo.
On Tuesday, an unnamed aide told the Times Union that Cuomo had groped her after calling her to the executive mansion under the pretext of business last year, long after the #MeToo
movement took down a host of politicians, media figures and business leaders for sexual harassment or assault.
"The fact that this latest report was so recent is alarming, and it raises concerns about the present safety and well-being of the administration's staff," Ocasio-Cortez said in a joint statement on Friday with US Representative Jamaal Bowman.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday that President Joe Biden "certainly supports" the state attorney general's investigation into the allegations. She added that the president and his COVID-19 response team would continue working with Cuomo on vaccination roll-out in New York.