He also worked to retaliate against his accuser, New York's Attorney General announced Tuesday. This has accelerated calls for the Democrat to resign or be impeached.
Defiantly, the governor said in a taped response that "the facts were much different from what has been portrayed" that he had "never touched anyone in an inappropriate manner or made inappropriate sexual advances."
The nearly five-month investigation found that Cuomo's administration was a hostile work environment "rife with fear and intimidation." The probe, led by two outside lawyers, involved interviews with 179 people including accusers, current and former administration employees and the governor himself.
Anne Clark and Joon Kim, former U.S. attorney, led the investigation. They found 11 accusers credible, noting that their claims were supported by varying degrees of witnesses, contemporaneous texts, and other witnesses.
"These interviews and evidence showed a disturbing but clear picture: Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed state employees, current and former, in violation of state and federal laws," Letitia James, New York Attorney General, stated at a press conference Tuesday.
The investigation's findings, detailed in a 165-page public report, turn up the pressure on the 63-year-old governor, who just a year ago was widely hailed for his steady leadership during the darkest days of the COVID-19 crisis, even writing a book about it.
He's witnessed his standing fall with harassment allegations, questions in an ongoing inquiry into state resources used to write the book and the revelation that his administration hid the true number of deaths at nursing homes during the outbreak.
James closed the investigation and did not refer the case to prosecutors. However, local authorities may use the evidence and findings of the investigation to build their own cases. David Soares, Albany District Attorney, stated that he would request material from James' office. He also encouraged victims to contact his office for more information.
The investigation's findings are also expected to play an important role in an ongoing state Assembly inquiry into whether there are grounds to impeach Cuomo. To investigate numerous allegations of harassment, his book and nursing homes, as well as special access to COVID-19 testing, the Assembly has its own legal team.
Cuomo suspects demanded that the governor take swift action and called for his resignation immediately. They were joined by some Republican and Democratic state legislators, as well as former Cuomo allies such county executives and leaders from left-leaning groups.
"Resign, @NYGovCuomo," Cuomo accuser and former aide Charlotte Bennett tweeted.
The investigation revealed that Cuomo and his senior staff attempted to retaliate against an ex-employee who had accused him of wrongdoing. The investigation also revealed that Cuomo harassed women in other places than government.
This report alleged that Cuomo abused a female trooper in his security detail. According to the report, Cuomo ran his fingers or hand across her stomach and back, kissed her cheekly, and asked her for help finding a girlfriend.
A woman working for an energy company claimed that Cuomo had inappropriately touched her at an event. Cuomo was said to have run his fingers across her shirt's lettering, and read her company name aloud. He then leaned in and said, "I'm going say I see a Spider on Your Shoulder," and brushed his hands between her breasts, according to the report.
Kim stated at the press conference, "These courageous women stood up to speak truth to power, and they expressed faith that, although the governor may seem powerful, the truth is more powerful."
Cuomo's lawyer wrote a rebuttal against the findings of the investigation. Cuomo claimed he was employing an expert to reform the sexual harassment training of state employees, including for the governor.
Cuomo taped his response and apologized to Bennett. Bennett said that Cuomo asked her if she would sex with an older male after she confessed to him that she had been the victim of sexual assault. Bennett also mentioned that Cuomo asked her if she was willing to have sex.
Cuomo was still ambivalent and lashed out against the investigation process, saying that it was riddled with "politics, bias" and that his mother, former Gov., had been doing the same. Mario Cuomo had done the same, and the gesture was intended to "convey warmth."
"For those who use this moment to gain publicity or political points. Cuomo stated that they discredit legitimate victims of sexual harassment, which the law was meant to protect.
Cuomo faced multiple allegations last winter that he inappropriately touched and sexually harassed women who worked with him or who he met at public events. One of his aides claimed that he touched her breasts. Others have claimed that the governor asked them inappropriate questions about dating and sex.
Former aide Lindsey Boylan, said Cuomo kissed her on the lips after a meeting in his office and "would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs."
The Cuomo administration distorted Boylan's story after she made her claims public in December. They released personnel memos to media outlets, which revealed that Boylan resigned after being confronted with complaints she had made about her staff.
Boylan claims that the records were "leaked to media in an attempt to smear" him.
Investigators stated that Cuomo confessed to certain behaviors during an 11-hour interview. However, he denied other allegations. Clark stated that he asked Bennett if she was involved with older men. He also said that he might have kissed Bennett at an event, but denied touching her.
Cuomo was asked about the allegation that Cuomo grabbed a woman’s breast at the executive home. According to the report, Cuomo replied: "I would need to lose my mind" to a woman Cuomo didn't know with several staff members.
The revelations last winter led to a chorus of calls for Cuomo's resignation from many top elected Democrats in New York, including U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand.
Cuomo refused, and has been fundraising money to finance a fourth term. Cuomo's position regarding the allegations has become more rigid. Cuomo always denied inappropriate touching, but he initially said he was sorry if his behavior with women was "misinterpreted as unwanted flirtation." He got more combative in recent months, saying he did nothing wrong and questioning the motives of accusers and critics.
He also raised concerns about the impartiality of the lawyers involved in the investigation. Kim was also involved in investigations into corruption of Cuomo's officials.
New York state regulations define sexual harassment as unwelcome conduct that is sexual in nature. This includes unwanted flirtation and sexual jokes.
Cuomo championed 2019 state legislation that made it easier to present a case in court for victims of sexual harassment. All victims of sexual harassment no longer need to prove that it is severe and persistent.