New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo insisted on Wednesday that he can still do his job in leading the state amid scandals plaguing his administration, saying that governors can handle “multiple situations” at a time.
During a coronavirus press briefing on Wednesday, Cuomo was asked whether he could perform his gubernatorial duties amid investigations into allegations of sexual harassment leveled against him and his handling of the nursing home deaths amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cuomo maintained that he is doing his job – opening vaccination centers across the state and negotiating the state’s budget – saying that his administration is “making good progress.”
“They don’t even understand the nature of the job – the nature of being governor, always, is multiple situations to deal with,” he said. “I had to deal with Trump as president – talk about distractions – that was a distraction.”
As for the allegations of sexual harassment by multiple current and former female staffers, Cuomo said they are being reviewed by the New York State Assembly, that state Attorney General Letitia James is also investigating the claims, and he is “cooperating with the reviews.”
Cuomo was asked how the women who have accused him of harassment and are still employed as staff are being protected. His general counsel interrupted, saying that every individual is protected, and that they are taking measures, but would not comment further.
“There are rules and conditions how people make complaints are handled, and we’re following those,” Cuomo said.
Meanwhile, Cuomo was hit on social media during the briefing, after just moments into beginning he commented on the attire of two women next to him.
Cuomo’s press conference came after the New York State Assembly’s Judiciary Committee held a preliminary virtual hearing Tuesday with attorneys from Davis Polk and Wardwell, the law firm hired to conduct the body’s investigation into the allegations. Eight women, including current and former aides, have accused Cuomo of sexual harassment and other unwanted behavior.
“Given the breadth and seriousness of the issues under investigation, we expect that the timing will be in terms of months, rather than weeks,” Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Lavine, a Democrat, said during the hearing.
Lindsey Boylan, the first woman to accuse Cuomo of misconduct, has described the state impeachment probe as a “sham” and said she will not cooperate with the investigation. Some lawmakers have argued the probe is blocking timely action.
Several prominent New York Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, have called on Cuomo to step down in response to the allegations. Cuomo has denied wrongdoing and insisted he will not resign.
Critics have questioned the assembly’s decision to appoint Davis Polk and Wardwell due to a potential conflict of interest. Dennis Glazer, a former partner at the law firm, is the husband of State Supreme Court Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, a Cuomo appointee. If Cuomo were to be impeached, DiFiore would cast a vote on whether to convict.
Davis Polk attorneys and Lavine said they examined the situation and determined there was no conflict of interest. Lavine said he served Cuomo’s office with a “non-retaliation” notice to protect potential witnesses.
Charlotte Bennett, another former aide who alleged that Cuomo asked her if she ever slept with older men, raised questions about the probe in a statement through her attorney.
“While Ms. Bennett is committed to cooperating with all appropriate governmental inquiries, including the impeachment investigation, questions remain about the independence of this inquiry,” Bennett’s attorney Debra Katz said in a statement. “If there is even a hint of political influence in the impeachment investigation, it will taint the entire proceedings.”
Aside from the state assembly’s probe, Attorney General James is also investigating the allegations against Cuomo. In a separate case, federal authorities are said to be probing the Cuomo administration’s alleged misreporting of data related to COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes.
Cuomo has served as governor of New York since 2011. He would be just the second governor to be impeached in state history if the assembly opts to move forward with proceedings.
Fox News’ Tamara Gitt, Thomas Barrabi and the Associated Press contributed to this report.