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Cuomo makes first public appearance since resignation

Former NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaking at God's Battalion of Prayer Church in Brooklyn
YouTube/God's Battalion of Prayer Church
Former NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaking at God's Battalion of Prayer Church in Brooklyn

Cancel culture. Albany politicians. The attorney general. Those were among the scapegoats former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo blamed for his downfall on Sunday, as he made his first public appearance since resigning under pressure in August.

The Democrat spoke at a church in Brooklyn, days after releasing an ad seeking to discredit his accusers and the findings of an independent investigation by State Attorney General Tish James.

Cuomo delivered a 25-minute speech as the 2022 campaign goes on without him. Facing near certain impeachment, Cuomo resigned in August, but now claims his ouster “overturned a legitimate election.”

“As you probably know, I've gone through a difficult period the past few months,” he said. “I resigned as governor, the press roasted me, my colleagues were ridiculed. My brother was fired. It was ugly. It was probably the toughest time of my life. And it was the first time that I was glad that my father wasn't here with us anymore so he didn't have to see it.”

Cuomo defended his brother, ex-CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, who was pushed out for surreptitiously helping the governor defend himself against sexual harassment claims and his own sexual misconduct allegation.

The former governor, who was first elected to the post in 2010, again apologized for his behavior, but asserted he did not break any laws. He said he has been vindicated because several criminal sex abuse probes into him were dropped by local DAs.

“The actions against me were prosecutorial misconduct, that is clear. They didn’t act in the interest of justice. The District Attorneys proved that. They acted in their own self-interest. They wanted me out because they wanted my job. We know that was their motivation by their own actions. But they actually used the cancel culture mentality to enable and advance their self-serving political scheme,” said Cuomo.

Cuomo has slowly returned to public life, hiring a spokesman and paying for the statewide ad from a campaign account with more than $16 million. Several good-government groups filed a complaint with the Board of Elections last week, saying the expenditures are inappropriate for someone who is not an active candidate for office.

Cuomo and his attorney have dismissed last year’s outside report as a political hit job meant to pave the way for James to run for governor. Cuomo’s fellow Democrat and former political ally mounted a brief campaign for governor last year before announcing a re-election bid.

Advocates for sexual harassment and assault survivors say the governor is rewriting history by claiming to be the victim, and they point out that he voluntarily resigned rather than defend himself as part of an impeachment inquiry.

“You elected me to fight for you to fight back against the Albany hacks, the flacks, and the bureaucrats, to say hell no to the status quo, to make government work for you and not the special interest view to make New York the best. Because we believe we are better than the rest,” he said. “You didn't elect me to suffer fools gladly. State government was dysfunctional. When you elected me you didn't elect me to play nice in the sandbox, where the Albany politicians you are electing me to go there and take the sand and build something for you. And we did.”

James’ campaign responded to Cuomo’s speech in a statement:

“Serial sexual harasser Andrew Cuomo won’t even spare a house of worship from his lies. Even though multiple independent investigations found his victims to be credible, Cuomo continues to blame everyone but himself. Cuomo wasn’t railroaded; he quit so he wouldn't be impeached. New Yorkers are ready to move forward from this sick, pathetic man.”  

Cuomo did weigh in on national politics Sunday, saying Democrats will have to mobilize in a hurry to counter a likely 2024 campaign by former President Trump:

“And it starts by looking in the mirror and remembering who we are and what made the Democratic Party special in the first place,” Cuomo said. “And what made us special as we told the nation, while in many ways we are a shining city on a hill. The truth is that still not everyone everywhere is sharing in that splendor and glory. The bright side of opportunity inequality does not shine on everyone, everywhere. There are too many living in the shadows. And Democrats spoke for those in the shadows, without power or position but with potential and promise and most important. The Democratic Party did something about it.”

Cuomo did not say whether he would run for office again, but concluded by telling the congregation it is time to “make trouble.”

A lifelong resident of the Capital Region, Ian joined WAMC in late 2008 and became news director in 2013. He began working on Morning Edition and has produced The Capitol Connection, Congressional Corner, and several other WAMC programs. Ian can also be heard as the host of the WAMC News Podcast and on The Roundtable and various newscasts. Ian holds a BA in English and journalism and an MA in English, both from the University at Albany, where he has taught journalism since 2013.
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