Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces his resignation Aug. 10, 2021. Video screenshot

Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned from office today, following months of investigations into allegations of sexual harassment and bullying.

Cuomo’s spectacular fall from grace ended a decades-long career in politics and elected office for the brash New York City born and bred lawyer and son of a former governor. It follows a period during which he was regarded as a national hero for his handling of the COVID-19 crisis — for which he even won an Emmy Award for his televised daily COVID briefings and scored a book deal reportedly valued at $5 million. Scrutiny of his administration’s policies regarding nursing homes last year tarnished that reputation and was soon followed by the first allegations of sexual harassment.

His resignation, which will take effect in 14 days, comes a week after New York State Attorney General Letitia James released a report that said her investigation determined Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 women. Facing a near-certain impeachment as well as criminal investigations, the governor announced he would step aside in a speech today shortly before noon.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, Democrat of Rochester, will be sworn in as governor after Cuomo’s resignation takes effect. The 62-year-old former congresswoman, who has served as lieutenant governor since 2015, will be New York’s first female governor.

“I agree with Governor Cuomo’s decision to step down. It is the right thing to do and in the best interest of New Yorkers,” Hochul said in a statement on Twitter.

“As someone who has served at all levels of government and is next in the line of succession, I am prepared to lead as New York State’s 57th Governor,” Hochul said.

Cuomo was defiant in his resignation, arguing that “politics” is to blame for blowing the scandal out of proportion. He continues to deny wrongdoing and instead reiterated the things he has said to defend his actions since the attorney general’s report was made public: he did not realize his behavior would make women feel uncomfortable and he meant no harm by any of the things he admits he said and did. Cuomo, 63, repeated today he believes a generational difference led to what he characterizes as misunderstandings with the women who have accused him of harassment. The “rules have changed,” he said. Cuomo continues to deny touching anyone in an “inappropriate” manner.

The founder of the Me Too organization, Tarana Burke, wrote in a tweet, “This ‘generational difference’ and ‘rules have changed’ nonsense is WRONG. The rules have NOT changed. It was WRONG 50 years ago and today. The difference is there were few paths to accountability years ago,” she said.

Cuomo articulated his resignation using the “New York Tough” analogy he has used to describe how the New Yorkers should respond to the COVID crisis.

He has served as the state’s chief executive since 2011 and intended to seek election to a fourth term of office in 2022. Before the current scandal erupted, he was often mentioned as a possible contender for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States.

“Today closes a sad chapter for all of New York, but it’s an important step towards justice,” the attorney general wrote on Twitter following the governor’s announcement. James has been mentioned as a potential Democratic candidate for governor. Though Cuomo at first said he supported an independent investigation by the attorney general’s office, as investigation drew to a conclusion, the governor’s top aides, including his communications director, said the attorney general’s review was politically motivated.

The Republican Party’s leading candidate for governor, First Congressional District Rep. Lee Zeldin, who has been waging a months-long “Cuomo’s Gotta Go” campaign, issued a statement this afternoon urging New York voters to “take back control of how they are governed and set the standards we want for those who are given the honor of serving us.”

New Yorkers deserve better than this, Zeldin said.

“The last three Democrat Governors have left office embroiled in scandal. Albany corruption is systemic, fundamental and real,” said Zeldin, who served as a state senator before being elected to the House of Representatives in 2014. “One-party Democrat rule enables this type of malign behavior,” Zeldin said. “It’s not just about Cuomo, it’s about those who continue to preserve the status quo and have failed to learn from the mistakes of the past.”

State Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) said in an interview Cuomo’s resignation allows the state to “get back to the business of dealing with the delta variant and the other business of the State of New York,” since it puts an end to the impeachment process. “He’s been a major distraction for six months,” Palumbo said.

Palumbo said Cuomo was “masterful” at getting revenge against those who crossed him and “fear of retribution” prevented people from coming forward and prevented political leaders from taking action “months ago.”

Their behavior was “disingenuous and shameful,” Palumbo said. “A lot of true colors were exposed,” he said.

“Bottom line: let’s move on,” Palumbo said. He predicted victory for Zeldin in the governor’s race next year.

“Excluding New York City, is this the direction we want our state to go — defund the police, criminal justice reform? If that’s where they want to go, then stick with the Democrats,” Palumbo said. “Lee Zeldin is the best candidate as far as I’m concerned.”

Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Baiting Hollow) called Cuomo’s resignation “an admission of guilt,” because “he would have fought this all the way,” she said. While his resignation ends the impeachment inquiry, Giglio said in an interview, Cuomo still faces potential criminal prosecution.

Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, today urged the attorney general “prosecute the governor to the fullest extent.” No one is above the law, Aguiar said.

“What is particularly disturbing is the governor’s insistence that his victims, not his lack of character and moral fortitude, were responsible for his downfall,” Aguiar said.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.