Caribbean pols join calls for Cuomo to resign

In this June 23, 2021 photo, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference, in New York.
Associated Press/Mary Altaffer/File

Caribbean American legislators in New York on Tuesday joined other elected officials in calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign after a state investigation report found that the governor had fostered a culture of workplace misconduct and had sexually harassed numerous women.

Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, joined Democratic members of the New York congressional delegation in renewing their call on Cuomo to step down.

“Let me be very clear, I reiterate my call for the governor to step down and applaud Attorney General (Letitia) James for conducting such a comprehensive investigation. Full stop,” Clarke, who represents the predominantly Caribbean 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, told Caribbean Life.

“Sexual harassment is extremely serious, and no one is above the law,” she added. “The glaring examples of sexual harassment, coupled with retaliatory behavior and the attempting to disparage the strong enough women to come forward, are disappointing and unacceptable.

“I echo Attorney General James in saying ‘No man — no matter how powerful’ — can be allowed to harass women or violate our human rights laws, period,” Clarke continued. “There must be a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment, and now is the time to send a clear message this behavior is not and will not be tolerated.”

Clarke’s call was echoed by New York Democratic representatives Jerrold Nadler, Carolyn Maloney, Brian Higgins, Nydia Velazquez, Ritchie Torres, Kathleen Rice, Grace Meng, Adriano Espaillat, Jamaal Bowman, Mondaire Jones and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

In March, amid mounting calls for Cuomo to resign, Clarke revisited her previous stance “in favor of a more expedited call to action.

“These allegations have reached a level that I believe impedes the governor’s ability to serve the people of New York State to the best of his abilities,” Clarke said at the time. “I remain confident that Attorney General Tish James has the resources, prowess and ability to conduct a comprehensive and determinative report. However, I must join my colleagues in calling for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to step down.”

New York State Assemblymember, Rodneyse Bichotte-Hermelyn, the Haitian American chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, said the Attorney General’s 168-page report contains findings of sexual harassment and misconduct involving 11 victims, “which are extremely troubling and reprehensible.

“My full sympathy goes out to the brave victims who endured these egregious experiences, but took heroic steps forward to provide evidence and live testimonies for the public of the disturbing behavior and abuse in a work environment ‘filled with fear and intimidation,’” said Bichotte Hermelyn, the daughter of Haitian immigrants.

“As a childhood sexual abuse survivor who also endured sexual harassment throughout my career, these testimonies triggered an emotional disturbance,” added the representative for the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn. “There is absolutely no room for this abuse, especially with elected officials who’ve been entrusted to fight it. Governor Cuomo’s conduct found in the report is heinous and a gross abuse of power.”

She said “the conduct by Gov. Cuomo found in the report indicates that he is unfit for office and should step down and resign.”

Soon after the independent investigators appointed by James — led by Joon H. Kim and Anne L. Clark — on Tuesday released their report into the multiple allegations of sexual harassment by Cuomo, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams called on Cuomo to resign immediately.

“Andrew Cuomo has acted for his entire career with abusive impunity, but his shamelessness cannot equate with immunity,” said the son of Grenadian immigrants. “He created a culture of abuse, which he has long employed to evade accountability, but the creation of that culture itself demands accountability. He cannot continue to serve as governor, and must resign immediately or be impeached expeditiously.”

Queens, New York Borough President Donovan Richards, Jr., who traces his roots to Jamaica, applauded Attorney General James “for overseeing this investigation with the utmost integrity and respect.

“Today, I am especially thinking of all the survivors who are in pain due to the governor’s behavior,” he said. “I hope they feel justice was partially served today, and it is now up to the State Legislature to complete.

“I hope the Assembly swiftly moves forward with impeachment proceedings if Gov. Cuomo does not resign,” Richards added. “New Yorkers deserve better, and the governor should resign.”

After nearly five months, the investigators concluded that Cuomo did sexually harass multiple women — including former and current state employees — by engaging in unwanted groping, kissing and hugging, and making inappropriate comments.

“Further, the governor and his senior staff took actions to retaliate against at least one former employee for coming forward with her story,” said James, adding that the Executive Chamber fostered a “toxic” workplace that enabled “harassment to occur and created a hostile work environment.”

The investigators find that Cuomo’s actions and those of the Executive Chamber violated multiple state and federal laws, as well as the Executive Chamber’s own written policies.

“This is a sad day for New York because independent investigators have concluded that Governor Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and, in doing so, broke the law,” James said. “I am grateful to all the women who came forward to tell their stories in painstaking detail, enabling investigators to get to the truth. No man — no matter how powerful — can be allowed to harass women or violate our human rights laws, period.”

Starting in December 2020, multiple women came forward with allegations that Governor Cuomo sexually harassed them.

Over the course of the investigation, James said the investigators interviewed 179 individuals.

She said those interviewed included complainants, current and former members of the Executive Chamber, State troopers, additional state employees, and others who interacted regularly with the governor.

The New York attorney general said more than 74,000 documents, emails, texts and pictures were also reviewed as evidence during the investigation.

Backed up by corroborating evidence and credible witnesses, James said the investigators detail multiple current or former New York state employees or women outside state service who were the targets of harassing conduct on the part of the governor.

As part of the investigation, James said Cuomo also sat with the interviewers and answered questions under oath.

While the governor denied the most serious allegations, James said the investigators found that he did so by offering “blanket denials” or that he had a “lack of recollection as to specific incidents.”

The investigators also found that the governor’s recollection “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.”

Additionally, James said the investigators found that the Executive Chamber was “rife with fear and intimidation” that not only “enabled the above-described instances of harassment to occur,” but also “created a hostile work environment overall.”

“Further, Governor Cuomo, himself, and the Executive Chamber engaged in ‘retaliatory’ behavior by ‘intend[ing] to discredit and disparage’ a former employee that came forward with her story of harassment,” James said.

But Cuomo vehemently dismissed the report’s finding, reiterating his contention that he had never touched anyone inappropriately, stating “the facts are much different from what has been portrayed.”

“I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” he said in a prerecorded message on Tuesday. “I am 63 years old. I have lived my entire adult life in public view. That is just not who I am, and that’s not who I have ever been.”

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