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Gov. Cuomo Was Brought Down By Scandal And Threat Of Impeachment


Today is Governor Andrew Cuomo's final day in office. He spent Sunday dealing with the response to tropical depression Henri but said he will still hand over control just before midnight tonight. The New York Democrat announced his resignation after a series of sexual harassment allegations and the threat of impeachment. NPR's Brian Mann joins us now to talk about this moment. Good morning, Brian.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So Brian, Andrew Cuomo wasn't just another Democratic governor. Why is his downfall such a big deal?

MANN: Yeah, over his 10 years in office, he really became a national leader in his party, emerging especially during the last four or five years as a visible opponent of former President Donald Trump. And he also took on some really big public policy fights - pushing here in New York to legalize same-sex marriage, pushing for really strict gun control laws. And then during the pandemic, his daily updates on the coronavirus were watched by people all over the U.S. And after all that, Leila, his political career just came crashing down in spectacular fashion.

FADEL: So I understand Cuomo's attorney spoke on Friday, still arguing the allegations against him made by these 11 women aren't credible. What's the goal here?

MANN: Yeah. Well, look; Cuomo has always had this street fighter's approach to politics, and he's clearly not willing to let this go. It's also a fact that even now that the impeachment process has been shelved, Cuomo is still facing numerous investigations into whether these alleged acts of misconduct were criminal. So on Friday, his attorney, Rita Glavin, once again tried to lay out a defense. But I have to say, Leila, the optics of this were pretty tough. At one point, Glavin tried to smear the reputation of one of the women, Charlotte Bennett, without actually offering any evidence. Let's listen.


RITA GLAVIN: We have been given some new information that pertains to Ms. Bennett that relates to her credibility. I will not get into what the information is out of respect for Ms. Bennett.

MANN: Bennett was one of Cuomo's executive assistants. She accused him of sexual harassment, and Bennett has said Cuomo has also tried to victim-shame women who've come forward. The New York attorney general's office also issued a statement after Glavin spoke saying - and this is a quote - "We cannot allow survivors of sexual harassment to be further traumatized by these continued attacks, lies and conspiracy theories." But again, this is the kind of counterpunching Cuomo and his team have always been known for. In this case, it just hasn't worked. Cuomo's allies, his public support - they've just fallen away. And tonight, Cuomo, too, will be gone.

FADEL: So what happens next?

MANN: So Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, the first woman ever to serve as governor, will be sworn in just after midnight. In the two weeks since Cuomo announced he would resign, Hochul's been barnstorming around the state, meeting with leaders, promising she'll be ready to lead. And she's made a couple of big announcements. One is that her new lieutenant governor will come from the New York City area, kind of counterbalancing her political roots in upstate New York. And also, Hochul has said that she's going to run for governor herself next year.

FADEL: Has Lieutenant Governor Hochul said what her priorities will be?

MANN: You know, on Day 1, Kathy Hochul will be facing a big surge in the pandemic, a big scramble to get more people vaccinated. And another thing, Leila, she's talked about returning civility to the governor's office. Hochul promised anyone entangled in Cuomo's scandals is going to be gone. She said the tone of her leadership is going to be really different from that of Andrew Cuomo.

FADEL: OK. That's NPR's Brian Mann in upstate New York this morning. Thank you.

MANN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BAD PLUS' "SALVAGES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.