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Governor Cuomo: "I Have Slipped," Was "Too Familiar" With Employees; Governor Andrew Cuomo Apologizes for "Offending" 11 Women; New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Resigns; New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Resigns, Effective in 14 Days. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired August 10, 2021 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): When I walk past them, I often will give them a grip of the arm a pat on the face a touch on the stomach a slap on the back. It's my way of saying I see you. I appreciate you and I thank you. I'm not comfortable just walking past and ignoring them.
Of course, usually they are male troopers. In this case, I don't remember doing it at all. I didn't do it consciously with a female trooper. I did not mean any sexual connotation. I did not mean any intimacy by it. I just wasn't thinking. It was totally thoughtless in the literal sense of the word.
But it was also insensitive. It was embarrassing to her. And it was disrespectful. It was a mistake, plain and simple. I have no other words to explain it. I want to personally apologize to her and her family; I have the greatest respect for her and for the New York State Police.
Now, obviously, in a highly political matter like this, there are many agendas. And there are many motivations at play. If anyone thought otherwise, they would be naive and New Yorkers are not naive. But I want to thank the women who came forward with sincere complaints.
It's not easy to step forward. But you did an important service. And you taught me and you taught others an important lesson. Personal boundaries must be expanded and must be protected. I accept full responsibility. Part of being New York tough is being New York smart.
New York smart tells us that this situation and moment are not about the facts. It's not about the truth. It's not about thoughtful analysis. It's not about how do we make the system better. This is about politics. And our political system today is too often driven by the extremes, rashness has replaced reasonableness. Loudness has replaced soundness.
Twitter has become the public square for policy debate. There is an intelligent discussion to be had on gender based actions on generational and cultural behavioral differences on setting higher standards and finding reasonable resolutions. But the political environment is too hot.
And it is too reactionary for that now. And it is unfortunate. Now, you know me. I'm a New Yorker, born and bred. I am a fighter and my instinct is to fight through this controversy. Because I truly believe it is politically motivated. I believe it is unfair, and it is untruthful.
And I believe it demonizes behavior that is unsustainable for society. If I could communicate the facts through the frenzy, New Yorkers would understand, I believe that but when I took my oath as governor, then it changed. I became a fighter, but I became a fighter for you. And it is your best interest that I must serve.
This situation by its current trajectory will generate months of political and legal controversy. That is what is going to happen. That is how the political wind is blowing. It will consume government. It will cost taxpayers millions of dollars. It will brutalize people.
The State Assembly yesterday outlined the weeks of process that will then lead to months of litigation, time and money that government should spend managing COVID guarding against the Delta variant reopening up state fighting gun violence and saving New York City.
All that time would be wasted. This is one of the most challenging times for government in a generation. Government really needs to function today. Government needs to perform.
CUOMO: It is a matter of life and death, government operations. And wasting energy on distractions is the last thing that state government should be doing. And I cannot be the cause of that New York tough means New York loving. And I love New York. And I love you.
And everything I have ever done has been motivated by that love. And I would never want to be unhelpful in any way. And I think that given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing, and therefore that's what I'll do, because I work for you.
And doing the right thing is doing the right thing for you because as we say, it's not about me. It's about us. Kathy Hochul, my Lieutenant Governor is smart and competent. This transition must be seamless. We have a lot going on. I'm very worried about the Delta variant, and so should you be but she can come up to speed quickly, and my resignation will be effective in 14 days.
To my team, Melissa DeRosa, Robert Mujica, Beth Garvey, Stephanie Benton, Dana Carotenuto, Kelly Cummings, Richa Bharti, Howard Zucker, Rick Cotton, Janno Lieber, Jack Davies, and the hundreds of dedicated administration officials. I want to say this, thank you. Thank you, and be proud.
We made New York State the progressive Capitol of the nation. No other state government accomplished more to help people. And that is what it's all about. Just think about what we did. We passed marriage equality, creating a new civil right, legalized love for the LGBTQ community.
And we generated a force for change that swept the nation. We passed the SAFE Act years ago, the smartest gun safety law in the United States of America, and it banned the madness of assault weapons. We've saved countless lives with that law.
$15 minimum wage the highest minimum wage in the nation, lifting millions of family standard of living putting more food on the table and clothes on their backs and we lead the nation in economic justice with that reform. We have managed every emergency Mother Nature could throw at us fires, floods, hurricanes, super storms and pandemics.
We balanced the state budget, we got it done on time, more than any other administration because government should work and perform. Free college tuition for struggling families. Nobody in this state will be denied their college dream because of their income.
We have built new airports, rail and transit roads all across this state faster and better than ever before. And more than any state in the nation, the most effective green economy program in the nation. We did more for Black and Latino families than any other administration. We did more for working families.
We did more for our union brothers and sisters. We did more to battle racism and anti-Semitism. Today, so much of the politics is just noise, just static and that's why people tune it out. What matters is actually improving people's lives and that's what you did.
You made this state a better state for the generations that follow. And that is undeniable in arguable and true, even in these ugly crazy times. I thank Speaker Carl Heastie and Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins for their leadership.
And let me say this on a personal note. In many ways, I see the world through the eyes of my daughters, Kira, Mariah and Michaela they are 26 and 26 twins and 23 and I have lived this experience with him through them.
CUOMO: I have sat on the couch with them, hearing the ugly accusations for weeks. I've seen the look in their eyes and the expression on their faces. And it hurt. I want my three jewels to know this. My greatest goal is for them to have a better future than the generations of women before them.
It is still in many ways a man's world, it always has been. We have sexism that is culturealized and institutionalized. My daughters have more talent and natural gifts than I ever had. I want to make sure that society allows them to fly as high as their wings will carry them. There should be no assumptions, no stereotypes, and no limitations.
I want them to know, from the bottom of my heart that I never did. And I never would intentionally disrespect a woman or treat any woman differently than I would want them treated. And that is the God's honest truth.
Your dad made mistakes. And he apologized. And he learned from it. And that's what life is all about. And I know the political process is flawed. And I understand their cynicism and distrust and disappointment now, but don't give it up because government is still the best vehicle for making positive social change.
Lastly, I want to remind all New Yorkers of an important lesson and one that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. And that's what you New Yorkers did in battling COVID. The enemy landed in New York State COVID launched the attack here. It came on planes from Europe, and we had no idea it was an ambush.
And it was up to New Yorkers to fight back. We were on our own. And it was war. Nurses, doctor's essential workers became our frontline heroes. Hospitals became the battlegrounds. Streets were still and sirens fill the city's silence. Trailers carried the bodies of our fallen brothers and sisters.
But you refuse to give up and you fought back and you won, going from the highest infection rate in the nation to one of the lowest. No one thought we could do it. But you did it. You lead the nation and you showed the way forward. And how you did it is what's most important.
You did it together. Not as black New Yorkers or white New Yorkers not as LGBTQ New Yorkers or straight New Yorkers or Democrats or Republicans or upstate or downstate or Jewish, Muslim, Protestant or Catholic New Yorkers, but as one community, one family, the family of New York, you overcame the naysayers and the haters, and the fear and the division and you unified and you rose and you overcame, and you saved lives.
And that was powerful in its effect. It was beautiful to see. And it was an honor to lead. Please remember that lesson. Hold it dear and hold it up high for this nation to see because it is New York State at her finest.
Creating her legacy fulfilling her destiny, giving life and animation to the Lady in the Harbor saying excel see your we can be better, we can reach higher and proclaiming "E Pluribus Unum", out of many one, unity, community love. That is our founding premise and our enduring promise.
And that is the salvation of this nation that it so desperately needs to hear. Thank you for the honor of serving you. It has been the honor of my lifetime. God bless you!
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: I'm John King in Washington. You've been watching simply blockbuster news.
KING: The 63-year-old Democratic Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo announcing he will resign 14 days from today that in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment, a report produced by the state attorney general, in which 11 separate women said the governor had behaved inappropriately around them.
The governor defiant even as he resigned, saying the most serious allegations about him in his view, have no credible basis in fact, but he said in the end, while he wanted to fight it his instinct was to fight. He believed it was in the best interest of New Yorkers, that he steps aside.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will become the new Governor of New York in just 14 days. This is a seismic moment in national politics, in democratic politics and in the cultural conversation, the national conversation about mistreatment of women in the workplace.
Let's begin our coverage right now with CNN's M.J. Lee. M.J., up until today the word had been the governor wanted to fight. Today he did something that was clearly very difficult for him. He resigned.
M.J. LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. We have been essentially on resignation watch for a number of days now. And our reporting, heading into today was that even over the weekend, he was ready to fight but he wasn't ready to accept that his governorship could be coming to an end.
But we just saw it live. He has resigned it is going to be effective in 14 days. And John, I think this goes to show the ultimate recognition that Governor Cuomo has clearly accepted that he had no support. He had no path forward. He knew better than anyone else, you would assume that impeachment was coming.
He knows better than anyone else, that friends and allies around him were saying to him, you have no path forward. And in fact, over the weekend, we know that some of his closest confidant spent the weekend basically persuading him that resigning would be the right thing to do.
I also want to note that this speech that we heard from him, initially, he was very defiant, wasn't actually clear that the announcement would be that he would be resigning because he said that he wanted to fight was very defiant about this AG report.
When he said ultimately that he was leaving his office the speech got very personal. He spoke directly to his daughters, and said in recent days, it has been painful for him to see the looks of pain on their faces. And he said your dad made mistakes. He apologized and he learned from it.
And now the spotlight, of course is on the Lieutenant Governor, as you said, Kathy Hochul. Governor Cuomo said that he hoped to see a seamless transition. So you're right, John, this is a seismic moment in national politics. And I will say I think there have to be a lot more conversations about some of the lessons about this "#Metoo Moment" that is happening and how Governor Cuomo handled some of the allegations that have really ended his political career.
KING: M. J. stay with us as you tee up. There's a lot to unpack from this and a lot to discuss some of this. But let's get to the moment right now and bringing our CNN Senior Political Analyst Kirsten Powers. Kirsten, you worked in New York State governments, you know, Governor Cuomo, your personal thoughts, and then just the reflections on the gravity the significance of this moment?
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I worked on his first governor's race in 2002, as his press secretary, and this is incredibly momentous, just kind of unbelievable moment I think.
I think a lot of people, especially people who know him, didn't think that he would step down that he would fight this and continue to fight it. And I think - I do think stepping down was the right thing to do. I might have some quibbles with the way that he did it. But I think he ultimately made the right decision.
KING: Let me bring the conversation in the room. Kirsten, stay with us as well. Margaret Talev from AXIOS is with me, Catherine Lucey of "The Wall Street Journal". Kirsten at the end, they're saying some quibbles with how he did it. Part of that, I assume, is that he essentially said he was being railroaded.
Let's be honest, the governor is quite defined. He said the most serious allegations he could rebut the other ones he said he respected the women and he apologized and he said he took full responsibility for offending them.
He said his defense was that he didn't realize the extent to which the line has been withdrawn. That was his - he said this was some of this was generational. Some of this was just as time moved on. I didn't realize the extent to which the line had been withdrawn.
MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean this speech is going to be, you know, studied for years in terms of the moment that we're in and what he was trying to communicate. I think in some ways, it does solidify like that he is one of the most profoundly talented communicators in either party, but actions speak louder than words.
And his actions got him in a place that he really couldn't talk himself out of it became a matter of reframing. And this does come after the "#Metoo" movement after four years of the Trump presidency. It comes when Joe Biden secured the Democratic nomination as a white man by basically saying, I'm going to bring up a bunch of women and people of color.
So this has been a tipping point, at least in the Democratic Party, maybe in American politics for the last several years. And you can't ignore that backdrop that context to what happened.
TALEV: I think you're right strategically he was clearly trying to sort of pivot and to say I messed up but I'm not a creep, right? He's trying to save his legacy. He's trying to insulate himself against civil liability, any potential criminal liability.
But remember, it was only a few months ago when his conversations with New Yorkers and the nation around COVID were making people say, could he be a presidential candidate? Does he have a spot in the Biden Cabinet? It's hard to imagine that this is the same person that we're talking about where he's trying to make sure that his daughters understand that he's really a good man and what his motivations were stunning.
KING: You make an important point in the sense that he said, stepping aside, will now put to an end. We assume months of an impeachment inquiry in the State Assembly, although State Assembly is also investigating COVID related things like this, you know, covering up the number of people deaths and senior citizen homes and the like.
But there are six district attorneys looking at this across the state as well. And again, the governor making it emphatically saying that he believes most of the facts can be refuted, but acknowledging the political math.
CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes, he's trying to draw a line here right John? He's trying to say that I offended some women; I did some things they weren't pleased with. But I didn't do anything criminal.
But if you step back and look at this moment, this was 165 page report. 11 women detailed allegations about grabbing and touching that they felt was inappropriate comments that were suggestive or personal in inappropriate ways. And the fact that he is where he is today speaks to the severity and the magnitude of those charges.
He had lost all support. You know, the president had made clear he wanted to resign, you know, top leaders in the state, the investigations that were underway, he really did have no allies and no top aides had resigned at this point, Melissa DeRosa had resigned. So he had no corner he had no place left to go.
And he knows that. To Margaret's point he's a talented politician and communicator, but he's still trying to manage the message on the way out the door. And I think it will be a really key speech as we analyze and think about the #Metoo" moment to think about the speech and the arguments that he is making.
Because it is 2021 and he is still trying to argue that there's a generational difference. I didn't always understand what the lines were. I'm friendly. I'm touching. It's a way of showing that I see you. And yet you have all these women saying that for a long period of time. The things that he was doing made them deeply uncomfortable. There's a real disconnect.
KING: He's in a position of powerful leadership. You need to understand what the rules are today. If the rules have changed from yesterday, it's your job to come to work in the morning to understand what the rules are today. That's your job in a position of leadership.
Let's bring in the New York POLITICO Playbook Co Author Anna Gronewold and Anna for days the story has been that from the president, but including, more importantly, the governor's closest inner circle in Albany and in New York City telling him, governor, you got to go, the answer had been no until today, when it became yes. ANNA GRONEWOLD, CO-AUTHOR, POLITICO'S NEW YORK PLAYBOOK: You know we actually have been waiting for this since, maybe even March when some of these allegations first came out. But after a very, very difficult week, and yesterday, we saw the assembly lay out exactly how they would kick him out of office?
We saw top aides over the past couple days, say they were done leaving him really with very few defenders left, it seemed like there really was no one that he could turn to. And at some point, he realized that this would be dragging him through the mud much, much longer than was necessary.
KING: Kirsten Powers, I want to come back to you to the point you made at the end where you thought it was the right thing to do. But you might quibble some with what he takes out. I don't want to interpret what you mean. So I want to let you say this as I get to you.
The governor in his "Defense", again, he questioned the factual credibility of what he called the most serious allegations against him. And then he tried to defend or rationalize his behavior. In other incidents along the generational lines, we were just saying, I assume you agree with my point that if you're the governor, if you're any man.
But especially if you're the governor of the State of New York, you have to understand whatever the rules were yesterday, or last month, or last year, or 30 years ago, you have to go by the rules today.
POWERS: Yes. You know, this is something I hear a lot when people get in trouble, not just around gender, but also around race, this kind of idea that well, I didn't realize it. And there does come a point where you have to say, that's on you, you know, as you just said.
And whether you're the governor or not, if you're just a regular person living in this society, and you have gone through all the changes made to Black Lives Matter. And you haven't taken the time to educate yourself about how to behave, and then you're responsible for the ramifications.
He's not wrong, that things are generationally different. That is very true. Many of the things that I read and described in these reports were similar conversations that I had with him when I worked with him, and I didn't think anything of them, not because there was nothing wrong with them, but because it was a very different time.
And you know you've covered politics for a long time. I mean, especially on campaigns, I mean it was just the Wild West and so it's a very different situation today and we know more we expect more.
POWERS: He is the governor. And I think what I wish he had done is I wish that he would have really contended with what has been said, and would have - he was going to resign anyway, and just say, I've now I've learned, I've learned my lesson, the worst possible way that you can learn it. But I did learn, instead of suggesting that the women are the problem, and that then that this is a political hit job and all these other things.
KING: Right. I think that's an excellent point right there. And let's bring into the conversation our Crime and Justice Correspondent Shimon Prokupecz. He's in New York; Shimon so we have two very important transitions now that we need to keep an eye on number one is the political transition.
Kathy Hochul will become the Governor of New York in 14 days. And also now we need to watch what happens? What happens A, in the assembly? Will they drop the impeachment inquiry now that the governor has said he would resign?
And B, what happens you know six district attorneys across the state had at least asked for more information about some of the allegations laid out in the Attorney General's report?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right so one of the things that could happen here, John, is that because of his resignation, it could take some pressure off of the criminal investigations and some of these DAs who are looking into some of this information or have been asking for it.
It will not take any pressure off of what's going on with the Albany DA that is where he probably faces the most severe of charges in terms of all of this. In terms of what they're looking at in terms of the possibility of being charged with a crime it is in Albany, and that is still ongoing.
And, you know, it doesn't seem to be any case where the Albany DA would not pursue the case, because he resigned in terms of the Lieutenant Governor, their relationship has been strained. You know, there are reports that they haven't talked since February.
So it's going to be interesting to see how that transition works? She was told has been ready to go into the job. She has been briefed. She's been getting different kinds of briefings and getting different kinds of information. And so she's ready to go.
KING: Shimon standby as well. I want to also bring into the conversation our Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash, and as I bring you into the conversation for any viewers just joining us, the blockbuster news is in the last hour, Andrew Cuomo, after weeks of fighting and promising to fight announced he would resign as the Governor of the State of New York, 14 days from now.
The governor, again questioning some of the findings of a report by the state attorney general, but also saying he takes full responsibility for his actions. And Dana we were talking just the other day on the program, the governor's instinct was to fight. I just want our viewers to hear it if they didn't hear it at the top of the hour. His instinct was to fight until this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: And I love New York. And I love you. And everything I have ever done has been motivated by that love. And I would never want to be unhelpful in any way. And I think that, given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside, and let government get back to government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Trying to say there he thinks, even though he disagrees that this is the best thing to do for the people of New York. And, again, I guess one way to put it he is trying to spend his way out of a scandal.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. But look, there is not really any spinning for the reality that he was facing and clearly accepted in this resignation. And that is that he has virtually no allies left certainly not in the place that matters most for him right now, in the most immediate future, which is the legislature because the impeachment was getting ready to go.
And he didn't want to go through the fight to the point where he was going to fight a losing battle in that. But the fact that he decided to do this, and the way that he did it, as M.J. said right at the beginning, that, at the beginning of the speech, he sounded like he was going to keep fighting until he wasn't.
And the fact that he talked about his daughters, his three daughters, and it brought them into it in a way that he was trying to connect with women, even though right now the perception of him, given the report and given the very human, very real accounts that we have heard from the people who say that they were victimized by him.
He has been trying to and is now going to probably continue to try to reshape his reputation, because that's what matters right now. His political career, at least in the short term is over. His desire to do the fourth term, as you said that his father can do is over. Now he's trying to reshape his reputation, and it's not going to be easy.
KING: And does this moment and we can't answer the question. So the question is where are we on page one of these next chapters? But is this a next chapter in how politics and how society handles these questions? I covered the Clinton White House during the impeachment. He plowed through people telling him he should step aside for the good of the country that it was the right thing to do.