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Pressure Mounts For Gov. Andrew Cuomo To Resign

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

At least six women, including four former aides, have now accused New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of inappropriate behavior. And a key state Democrat called on him to resign. Cuomo has denied the allegations and says he's not stepping down despite losing the support of almost all congressional Democrats. NPR's Sally Herships has been covering Cuomo. And she joins us now. Welcome.

SALLY HERSHIPS, BYLINE: Thank you. Hi.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What has changed this week for the governor?

HERSHIPS: At the beginning of the week, Monday, there were already these two investigations, a federal probe looking into allegations that Cuomo's administration had mishandled data on nursing home deaths during the pandemic and a state investigation into Cuomo's alleged misconduct in the workplace. And then a local paper, the Times Union of Albany, reported that another woman, also a former aide, charged that he groped her, that he reached under her shirt in the executive mansion. And that is when things headed truly south for Cuomo.

On Friday, there was an almost coordinated Twitter attack where congressional Democrats called for his resignation. And by that evening, New York's two U.S. senators, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, had also done the same.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, that's a lot of reaction. Why does Cuomo feel like he can survive this?

HERSHIPS: He is a third-term governor in New York. It's a state with no term limits. He was expected to run again. There were even murmurs that he was going to run for president. He's powerful. His dad was governor. He's chair of the National Governors Association. And he was, until recently, also tremendously popular with voters. He was giving these pandemic versions of fireside chats. He won an Emmy for them. He wrote the book on the pandemic "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From The COVID-19 Pandemic." And during the pandemic, he kept telling New Yorkers that we had to be New York tough. And that seems to be his approach here.

Here he is during a press conference on Friday. He is sticking to his guns, continuing to deny the allegations against him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANDREW CUOMO: I never harassed anyone. I never assaulted anyone. I never abused anyone.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But something is shifting, obviously, by the reactions that we're seeing.

HERSHIPS: Yeah. And that something seems to be politics. Take Kirsten Gillibrand. She was the first senator to call for Democratic Senator Al Franken to resign when he was accused of inappropriate behavior. And she spoke out quickly and decisively. And she got a lot of blowback for it. It's haunted her ever since. And it's possible that she and Chuck Schumer held out until politics required them to toe the party line. Until Friday, both senators were more in line with the response of the Biden administration. When questioned, the president's press secretary has said women have a right to be heard but has stopped short of calling for Cuomo's resignation.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what does the future look like for Cuomo now?

HERSHIPS: Well, a mere mortal might resign. But this guy was running his dad's campaign when he was in his 20s. He's an attorney. He has politics and showmanship in his blood. On Friday, early afternoon, right after congressional Democrats launched this seemingly coordinated Twitter attack against him, he was asked during a press conference how he could effectively lead at such a critical time when the state's budget is due in two weeks. And there's the matter of the vaccine. And he tried to turn the question in his favor.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CUOMO: And I don't think there's a person in a better position to help the state get through this period than the experience that I bring to it.

HERSHIPS: And meanwhile, the state attorney general says the investigation into the harassment charges against the governor is ongoing.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR's Sally Herships. Thank you very much.

HERSHIPS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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