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It's Andrew Cuomo's Last Day: How Praise For The Governor Became Scorn In 1.5 Years

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Today is Andrew Cuomo's last day as governor of New York. He is set to resign at midnight. It's been a dramatic year and a half for the third-term Democratic governor. He gained national attention for his response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But then a blistering report from New York's attorney general found that he sexually harassed multiple women, forcing him to step down. Gwynne Hogan of member station WNYC joins us now.

Hi there.

GWYNNE HOGAN, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: How did Cuomo spend his last day as governor?

HOGAN: Well, he delivered a pre-taped farewell address to New York residents. In it, he reiterated what he's been saying for weeks, that he did nothing wrong but was resigning for the good of the state. He then again attacked the integrity of the Attorney General Leticia James's report on sexual harassment. He also talked about his accomplishments in office - legalizing gay marriage, raising the state's minimum wage and a host of infrastructure projects he'd overseen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANDREW CUOMO: Thank you for allowing me to represent you. Thank you for empowering me to fight for you. Thank you for trusting me through COVID. Thank you for making New York State the progressive capital of the nation.

SHAPIRO: He refers to through COVID there. Early in the pandemic, Cuomo was extremely popular around the country, almost a contrast to President Trump. But that started to shift earlier this year. Remind us what happened.

HOGAN: That's right. A few different things happened. In January, the state attorney general released a report confirming his administration had undercounted the deaths of nursing home residents from COVID by 50%. After that, his top aide admitted to state lawmakers Cuomo's office was deliberately withholding those numbers. And then people - several people started to speak publicly about being bullied by Cuomo and his top aides. From there, several current and former staffers came forward who said they'd been sexually harassed by him. One said she was groped by him under her blouse. Others said they'd been forcibly kissed or touched inappropriately and that he often made inappropriate comments to them.

SHAPIRO: Those allegations started to come out in March, and here we are in late August. Why did it take Cuomo so long to step down?

HOGAN: He'd managed to convince his remaining allies to wait for the results of an attorney general investigation into the sexual harassment allegations. That report came out earlier this month, and it documented new instances of sexual harassment. It corroborated the accounts of 11 women. And at that point, President Joe Biden called for him to step down. Many of his fellow New York Democrats did as well. And the state legislator was moving towards impeachment. He'd essentially run out of options and friends, and resigning was really his only path forward.

SHAPIRO: And now what? Does he just fade quietly into the darkness?

HOGAN: (Laughter) It's a good question. You know, there's still an ongoing federal investigation into his conduct. There are five potential criminal probes. There's the threat of civil lawsuits against him. And there is a wide-open race for New York governor next year. He's got more than $18 million in campaign funds still in the bank. One of his aides has said he will not seek reelection, but who knows what might happen.

SHAPIRO: And just briefly, what kind of a governor do we expect Kathy Hochul, the current lieutenant governor, to be?

HOGAN: She's been lieutenant governor since 2015. She's going to be the first woman governor of New York has ever had. She also says, you know, she has plans to run for another term next year.

SHAPIRO: And is Gwynne Hogan, reporter for WNYC and Gothamist.

Thanks for joining us.

HOGAN: Thanks, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.