As more than a dozen Democratic members of the state’s congressional delegation called for his resignation, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared that doing so amounted to "bowing to cancel culture" and that he would do no such thing.
The embattled governor on Friday afternoon decried unspecified politicians as "reckless and dangerous" for rushing to judgment.
"The people of New York should not have confidence in a politician who takes a position without knowing any facts or substance," Cuomo said on a conference call with reporters. "Politicians take positions for all sorts of reasons, including political expediency and bowing to pressure. But people know the difference between playing politics, bowing to cancel culture, and the truth."
At least 13 of New York’s congressional delegation on Friday pushed for Cuomo’s resignation, a dramatic escalation in the effort to remove the governor from office amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
A majority of the state’s congressional delegation has now mobilized against Cuomo, the latest sign of his crumbling support from one-time allies in Washington.
The list includes senior Democratic committee chairs — Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Jerry Nadler and Nydia Velázquez — who have worked with the Cuomo family for decades, as well as high-profile progressives, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mondaire Jones and Jamaal Bowman. Democratic Congressional Campaign Chair Sean Patrick Maloney joined the list shortly before noon, and Rep. Paul Tonko chimed in a half hour later.
The group of Democrats demanding Cuomo’s resignation hailed mainly from districts in or surrounding New York City, such as Reps. Adriano Espaillat, Yvette Clarke and Grace Meng. But it also included Maloney and Rep. Antonio Delgado, whose districts include the Hudson Valley, as well as Rep. Brian Higgins, who represents Buffalo. The lawmakers released statements Friday morning within minutes of one another, suggesting a coordinated effort to push Cuomo out of office.
“Governor Cuomo has lost the confidence of the people of New York,” Nadler, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. “Governor Cuomo must resign.”
Lawmakers and their staffs had been in discussions about calling on Cuomo to resign for roughly two weeks, mostly in informal calls or conversations off the floor, according to people familiar with the efforts. Those discussions quickly escalated in the last 48 hours, as a sixth accuser came forward to accuse the governor of groping her just as Democrats in the New York legislature began taking steps toward impeachment proceedings.
While there has been no formal meeting by the New York delegation to discuss Cuomo, Democrats had been organizing among themselves — many in text threads and private calls — as they each made the call whether to release statements Friday.
Cuomo’s loyalists had been trying to rally Democrats around the idea of waiting on the conclusion of independent investigations into the allegations before passing judgment or calling for him to step aside.
To that end, in recent days Cuomo allies enlisted Hazel Dukes, president of the New York branch of the NAACP, and former Rep. Nita Lowey to make the case as others distance themselves from the governor.
“At least until [investigators] have reported their conclusions, the Governor should remain in office," Lowey said in a statement issued Wednesday by the New York State Democratic Committee, which Cuomo effectively controls.
The New York governor has been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct ranging from lewd conversation to groping a staffer in the governor’s mansion late last year — an allegation that was recently referred to police in Albany.
Cuomo has denied the allegations made against him, but apologized for making people feel uncomfortable with his actions. He has also steadfastly refused to step down and said it would be anti-democratic for him to do so. On Friday he enhanced his denials, saying that he never had "a sexual relationship that was inappropriate — period" with any of the women who have accused him of misconduct.
"I did not do what has been alleged,” he said.
Several key New York Democrats did not take part in Friday’s campaign, including House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries and House Foreign Affairs Chair Gregory Meeks. Rep. Tom Suozzi on Friday stopped short of endorsing the idea of resignation, opting instead to leave it up to the retrenching governor.
"I believe the Governor must seriously consider whether he can effectively continue to govern in the midst of these unfolding allegations," he said in a statement. "If he cannot effectively govern with all of the controversy surrounding him, he must put the interests of all New Yorkers first and he should resign."
New York Attorney General Tish James is in the midst of an investigation into the allegations made against Cuomo in recent weeks, an effort anchored by a pair of outside attorneys. And the Democrat-led state Assembly, which would initiate potential impeachment proceedings, on Thursday announced plans to launch a probe of its own with subpoena power.
The group of lawmakers join Rep. Kathleen Rice, who was among the earliest elected Democrats to call for the governor to step down. Republicans in New York’s congressional delegation and on the state level have also demanded Cuomo’s ouster.
Senators have not been quick to ask for Cuomo’s exit, including the New York delegation. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the most recent allegation "nauseating" on SiriusXm satellite radio on Thursday and has called for an investigation, but has stopped short of telling Cuomo to go as of Friday morning. Schumer is up for reelection in 2022 and could face a primary challenge from the left from one of the progressive House members.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who was among the senators that pushed for former Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to resign amid a drip of allegations, said that the state AG should probe the "serious" allegations.
As Cuomo’s support in the House delegation crumbled, he was suffering another major defection closer to home. The five state Democratic state senators representing Long Island — a bloc of moderates who had been close allies of the governor — issued a joint statement saying Cuomo “cannot lead the state while faithfully responding to multiple investigations” and should instead allow Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul to take the reins, at least temporarily.
The Biden administration has tried to keep its distance from Cuomo in the face of repeated questions about the allegations and whether the governor should step down. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that officials had seen the news about the congressional delegation’s break from Cuomo but had nothing to add on the subject.
Burgess Everett and Bill Mahoney contributed to this report.