In his final address on his last day in office, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York claimed on Monday that “intense political pressure and media frenzy” had caused a rush to judgment on sexual harassment allegations made against him, ultimately leading to his resignation.
Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, struck a defiant tone in his remarks, which he used to once again question the fairness of a state attorney general report that found he sexually harassed 11 women.
The 165-page report offered corroborating evidence for eight accusers whose allegations were already public, most of them current or former state employees. It also included three previously unreported accounts of sexual harassment by the governor. Investigators conducted interviews with 179 witnesses and accumulated tens of thousands of documents.
Mr. Cuomo likened the report to a firecracker that started a “political and media stampede,” adding that there “will be another time to talk about the truth and ethics of the recent situation involving me.”
“The truth is, ultimately, always revealed,” he said. “The attorney general’s report was designed to be a political firecracker on an explosive topic and it worked.”
The 15-minute farewell address, which was prerecorded, was broadcast on Mr. Cuomo’s last day in office after a decade-long tenure that came to an abrupt end, with Mr. Cuomo succumbing to the escalated calls for his resignation and the threat of impeachment.
Under immense political and public pressure, Mr. Cuomo announced he would resign two weeks ago following the attorney general’s five-month investigation, which concluded Mr. Cuomo had engaged in a pattern of troubling behavior toward women that ranged from inappropriate comments to unwanted touching.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will be sworn in as governor at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, becoming the first woman to hold the state’s highest office.
In his dwindling hours as governor, Mr. Cuomo moved to redefine his legacy, seeking to remind New Yorkers once more of progressive policy achievements under his watch even as he issued parting shots to the left wing of his party with which he has tangled frequently.
In a combative address that had none of the regretful overtones of his last major public discussion of his future, Mr. Cuomo ticked through his administration’s efforts on green energy and marriage equality, raising the minimum wage and combating gun violence.
He also issued a vigorous defense of his relatively centrist politics, rebuking the “defund the police” movement and attempts at “demonizing business,” and suggesting that his administration had sliced through the bureaucracy that often stymies government.
“We have developed over the last decade a new paradigm of government in this state,” Mr. Cuomo declared. “A government that actually works, and actually works for people.”
As he did when he previously announced his intent to resign, Mr. Cuomo also strained to conjure memories of what many New Yorkers had liked best about his leadership. He invoked his father, the former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo; he emphasized his administration’s efforts to combat the coronavirus — and suggested a state law to mandate compliance around vaccines and masking in some circumstances; and he reached for language that had powered his popular briefings at the start of the pandemic.
“Always stay New York tough,” he advised.
Mr. Cuomo had kept mostly out of sight since announcing his plans to resign Aug. 10. He filed his retirement papers with the state, signed a handful of bills into law and was busy moving his belongings out of the Executive Mansion in Albany.
But over the last few days, Mr. Cuomo re-emerged in person, holding two storm-related briefings and directing his personal lawyer, Rita Glavin, to conduct a 22-minute virtual presentation on Friday designed to push back on the attorney general report. Ms. Glavin also sought to cast doubt on the accounts from many of the women who accused the governor of inappropriate behavior.
In his virtual briefings in New York City over the weekend to discuss the state’s preparations for Tropical Storm Henri, Mr. Cuomo again donned his preferred role as crisis manager. The briefings — replete with PowerPoint slides, some pointed questions from the press and mentions of “New York tough” — recalled the coronavirus briefings that catapulted Mr. Cuomo to national fame before his demise.
On Monday, Melissa DeRosa, the governor’s top aide, issued a statement seeking to tamp down speculation swirling about Mr. Cuomo’s future and whether he might run for governor again next year. Ms. DeRosa announced her plans to resign two days before Mr. Cuomo did, and her resignation goes into effect at midnight as well.
“He looks forward to spending time with his family and has a lot of fishing to catch up on,” Ms. DeRosa said. “He is exploring a number of options, but has no interest in running for office again.”
Mr. Cuomo leaves office with a massive $18 million campaign war chest, by far the most out of any politician in the state. It remains unclear where Mr. Cuomo, who does not own property, will live after he moves out from the Executive Mansion, which is just a few blocks away from the State Capitol.
Someone close to him said he has considered renting a house in Westchester County, where he has lived before and where his sister Maria Cuomo lives. Indeed, on Friday, moving trucks transported boxes from the governor’s mansion in Albany to his sister’s home in Westchester.
His public schedule on Monday said only that Mr. Cuomo was “in the New York City area.”