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Entertainment Who is Andrew Cuomo? Here's what you need to know about the New York Governor's fall from power

03:58  11 august  2021
03:58  11 august  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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When America's COVID-19 fear was first peaking, the public looked in an unlikely direction for national leadership.

Just north of the Capitol, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo promised to make transparency and clear information his calling cards.

Cable news networks ran his hour-long press conferences live, every single day, for months on end.

On Mother's Day, he video-called his mum during a live press conference and pundits gushed about his empathy.

His popularity soared with the public to the point where the hashtag #PresidentCuomo trended on Twitter. Journalists speculated he might be named as Joe Biden's running mate in the presidential election.

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And the praise lasted for months. Not long after the third devastating wave of infections crashed over New York, Mr Cuomo was awarded an Emmy for the way he turned a crisis into a moment of engaging, feel-good television.

Mr Cuomo emerged from the worst year of the pandemic looking like an anti-Trump leader, offering a calm, caring style in contrast to the man in the White House.

On Tuesday (local time), he resigned from his job as governor amid calls for impeachment, the threat of criminal charges and a big #MeToo test for the Democrats.

What happened?

Multiple women are accusing Cuomo of sexual harassment

Mr Cuomo is facing detailed, on-the-record allegations of sexual harassment from at least 11 women, many of them current and former staffers.

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Their accounts were corroborated by an investigation conducted by the state attorney-general, who released a report last week but declined to press criminal charges.

Investigators say Mr Cuomo touched women inappropriately, subjecting them to unwanted kisses and groping, as well as made suggestive remarks about their appearance and sex lives.

Overall, it created a work environment “rife with fear and intimidation,” the report said.

The detailed account of this behaviour came after months of mounting allegations, which Mr Cuomo has denied outright or downplayed.

The first public allegation came in late December, when his former staffer Lindsey Boylan took to Twitter to allege Mr Cuomo had made repeated sexual advances to her.

"@NYGovCuomo sexually harassed me for years," she wrote on Twitter.

"Many saw it, and watched. I could never anticipate what to expect: would I be grilled on my work (which was very good) or harassed about my looks. Or would it be both in the same conversation? This was the way for years," she said.

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She alleges he forcibly kissed her on the lips and asked her to play strip poker with him.

Cuomo accused of hiding New York's true COVID death count

The second blow to Mr Cuomo's reputation came in February 2021, when the federal Justice Department started investigating allegations that he covered up thousands of deaths in nursing homes, after making honesty the heart of his COVID response.

According to an Associated Press investigation, his administration made a decision on March 25 to send 40 per cent more patients to aged care facilities than was reported by health authorities.

The New York Times reported that his senior aides tried to cover up the damage of that decision — more than 9,000 deaths among nursing home residents — by removing statistics from a public report.

At least nine New York public health officials resigned after clashing with Mr Cuomo.

Mr Cuomo published a book on his initially praised COVID response, titled American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic. He stands to make more than $US5 million ($6.8 million) from the deal.

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He's now under investigation by the state attorney-general for possibly using his staff members to write and promote the book, in violation of US ethics law.

Democrats long called on Cuomo to resign

Once the darling of the left, Mr Cuomo left the democrats scrambling to respond.

As This Week's Ryan Cooper put it when the first allegations broke: "The #MeToo movement is running aground on the rocks of Democratic political convenience."

A handful of Democrats immediately called on Mr Cuomo to resign, including New York's two Democratic senators, majority leader Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Others reserved judgment and instead endorsed the investigation.

Following the report, everyone from US President Joe Biden to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Mr Cuomo to resign.

When Mr Cuomo announced his intentions to stay in office, again denying or downplaying all allegations, the leader of New York’s state assembly pressed ahead with impeachment charges.

Ms Pelosi, a Democrat, said it was important Mr Cuomo was removed from office "as quickly as possible".

Mr Cuomo beat them to the punch, resigning on Tuesday morning (local time) in a live televised address.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, a 62-year-old Democrat, will step up to become New York's 57th governor. She will be the first woman to hold the post.

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Cuomo has played down the allegations, sparking more criticism

While delivering his resignation, Mr Cuomo again denied that he intentionally mistreated women. He called the backlash to the report "politically motivated", but said it was best not to subject New York to such turmoil during a fragile time.

"The best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing," he said.

The tone of his address was consistent with his approach over the past months. He reportedly cooperated fully with the state attorney-general's review.

In his direct response to the report, he acknowledged it was custom for him to kiss and hug people when greeting them. He showed photos of other politicians doing the same.

"I understand that sensitivities have changed and behaviour has changed and I get it, and I'm going to learn from it," he said.

Several of the women who levied the allegations have rejected Mr Cuomo's apologies.

"It's not an apology. It's not an issue of my feelings. It's an issue of his actions," said Charlotte Bennett, a former staffer.

"The fact is that he was sexually harassing me and he has not apologised for sexually harassing me."

Cuomo's resignation is a new step in the #MeToo movement

Mr Cuomo's critics pointed out he had a long track record of condemning sexual harassment.

In 2013, he introduced a Women's Equality Act proposal that included banning "sexual harassment in every workplace".

Later that year, he suggested two assemblymen be expelled for alleged sexual misconduct with staff.

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When the Harvey Weinstein allegations broke in 2017, Mr Cuomo announced he would return donations from the media mogul, saying: "I have three daughters. I want to make sure at the end of the day, this world is a safer, better world for my three daughters."

The #MeToo movement, which erupted nationwide in 2017 in part because of former US president Donald Trump's election, has ended the careers of congressional members in both parties.

The downfall of Minnesota senator Al Franken set the tone for the Democratic Party's "zero tolerance" policy on sexual harassment.

Some commentators argue the Democrats' caution in waiting for the results of an independent investigation into Mr Cuomo's actions stemmed from a political calculation.

Maybe the party paid too big a price by taking the higher moral ground over the Franken case in the age of Trump.

Dr Leigh Gilmore, a gender studies professor who’s written about Mr Cuomo, told the ABC that the Democrats' pressure on Mr Cuomo shows the #MeToo movement had evolved and matured.

"You'll notice that there wasn't a kind of instantaneous call for resignation. Instead, there was an insistence there be an independent investigation, which I think is a really important step for making processes in making these types of allegations more transparent and fair," she said.

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