If anyone can, New York Attorney General Letitia “Tish” James can. James dropped the bomb on Gov. Andrew Cuomo Tuesday morning, finding he sexually harassed 11 women.
Released after five months of investigating, the independent probe found Cuomo violated multiple state and federal laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law, 42 U.S. Code § 1983 and the Executive Chambers’s own policies. James’ team interviewed 179 people and reviewed more than 74,000 documents, texts, emails and pictures.
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The 168-page report documented the history of misconduct and abuse of power. Between 2013 and 2020, Cuomo made unwanted sexual advancements toward 11 current and former staffers. The harassment included unwanted groping, kissing, hugging and making inappropriate comments.
A statement from the attorney general’s office reiterated investigators found Cuomo’s blanket denials to the more serious allegations “stood in stark contrast to the strength, specificity, and corroboration of the complainants’ recollections, as well as the reports of many other individuals who offered observations and experiences of the governor’s conduct.”
Another finding was creating and maintaining a hostile work environment, including retaliatory behavior against at least one woman. The investigators further found the culture within the Executive Chamber created an environment conducive to such harassment.
It’s been months since the news first broke of sexual harassment allegations against the governor. After initially trying to sidestep James and an independent investigation, Cuomo finally broke down and granted her permission at the end of February.
Under N.Y. Executive Law § 63(8), the attorney general, with the approval of the governor, may “inquire into matters concerning the public peace, public safety, and public welfare.” It also permitted the attorney general to designate a deputy to lead the investigation.
James deputized outside legal counsel as the investigative team to lead the independent review. Since the first allegations were made public, James has prioritized the duty of care to the women who stepped forward and the residents of New York over partisan loyalty.
For years, Republican attorneys general have been actively working against the rights and needs of the people they are supposed to protect. From suing to end the affordable care act to actively trying to undo abortion rights, they place partisan ideology over people’s actual real-time needs.
After the 2020 election, 17 Republican attorneys general sued to undo the valid election outcomes in other states supporting Trump’s big lie. A Republican attorneys general group also encouraged people to march on the Capitol to ‘stop the steal.”
Unfortunately, not everyone who takes on that role views their responsibility of upholding the constitution and the public good in the same way as James. James’s office has taken on the NYPD, the Trump Organization, the NRA and right-wing trolls trying to suppress Black votes in the past year alone.
Prioritizing people over politics separates her from many of her colleagues around the country. And while some may balk at holding a Democratic leader accountable — when someone like Trump has been accused of sexual misconduct and not held responsible — it is the right thing to do.
“I am grateful to all the women who came forward to tell their stories in painstaking detail, enabling investigators to get to the truth,” said James Tuesday morning. “No man — no matter how powerful — can be allowed to harass women or violate our human rights laws, period.”
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