ALBANY, N.Y. – Outgoing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo aired a defiant, pre-recorded farewell address in his final hours in office Monday, highlighting his accomplishments while suggesting he's the victim of a "political firecracker" that derailed his governmental career.
Cuomo, a Democrat, is set to resign at the end of Monday, clearing the way for Lt. Gov. Hochul to become the state's 57th governor at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.
His voluntary resignation comes three weeks after an investigation by private attorneys selected by state Attorney General Letitia James concluded Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women while in office, including nine current or former state employees.
But Cuomo has repeatedly suggested the investigation — which Cuomo himself authorized — was politically motivated and designed to defame him, a case he again made at the top of his 15-minute farewell speech.
"The attorney general's report was designed to be a political firecracker on an explosive topic, and it worked," Cuomo said in the address, which was recorded in the Executive Mansion in Albany. "There was a political and media stampede. But the truth will out in time, of that I am confident."
Monday marks Cuomo's final day in office after he was first elected in 2010, marking an abrupt, ignominious end to his decade-plus as governor after spending most of his adult life in government.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul is set to make history when she is sworn in as the state's 57th governor at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, becoming the first woman to hold the position.
Ahead of Cuomo's address, his top aide, Melissa DeRosa, issued a statement confirming the outgoing Democrat does not intend on making a return to electoral politics.
"(Cuomo) looks forward to spending time with his family and has a lot of fishing to catch up on," DeRosa said. "He is exploring a number of options, but has no interest in running for office again."
Cuomo, 63, announced his pending resignation Aug. 10, a week after state Attorney General Letitia James issued her report examining claims from women – including nine current or former state employees – who say Cuomo behaved inappropriately.
The report, which was completed by private attorneys Joon Kim and Anne Clark, concluded Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, finding their claims credible while corroborating many of them with contemporaneous messages and accounts.
Among them were a claim from one of Cuomo's executive assistants, who has since identified herself as Brittany Commisso, who claimed Cuomo reached under her shirt and groped her breast late last year.
Cuomo and his attorney, Rita Glavin, have denied the most serious of claims and suggested the women may have misinterpreted some of his remarks as flirtations. He has claimed the attorney general's report left out pertinent information and was politically motivated, suggesting James has her eye on the governor's office herself.
The governor himself requested James' investigation, however.
Cuomo referred the matter to the Attorney General's Office in March after two former Cuomo aides, Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett, publicly accused the governor of harassing behavior.
At first, Cuomo himself selected a private attorney to complete the review. But he relented under pressure from lawmakers, who urged him to refer the matter to the attorney general, who ultimately selected Kim and Clark to do the work.
Jon Campbell is the New York State Team editor for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @JonCampbellGAN.