Facing a deluge of calls to resign from New York’s U.S. senators and the majority of its House Democrats, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo made clear on Friday he had no intention of quitting, deriding the mounting pressure from his own party as “cancel culture” and insisting he would not bow to it.
The calls first came in a coordinated barrage of statements released in the morning from more than a dozen House members — most of the state’s Democratic delegation — including Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The sentiment was clear: Mr. Cuomo had lost the capacity to govern and must leave office.
By the end of the day, Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand had also called on Mr. Cuomo to step down.
“Due to the multiple, credible sexual harassment and misconduct allegations, it is clear that Governor Cuomo has lost the confidence of his governing partners and the people of New York,” the senators said in a joint statement late Friday afternoon. “Governor Cuomo should resign.”
It was a remarkable moment for Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat who won national acclaim last year during the early months of the pandemic, but is now confronting multiple investigations and the threat of impeachment over a string of sexual harassment allegations and his attempt to obscure the virus-related death toll in nursing homes. By day’s end, he was almost entirely isolated.
The governor responded with defiance — a surprise in a traditional political sense, given that other elected officials have resigned in the face of far less unanimous sentiment. But it also marked a return to form for the pugilistic governor, who last week had struck a more conciliatory, apologetic tone in addressing the harassment accusations.
In a hastily arranged news conference after the House members issued their calls, Mr. Cuomo quickly rejected the demands for him to step down, and denied harassing or abusing anyone. He lashed out at the lawmakers for jumping to conclusions, calling them “reckless and dangerous.”
“I did not do what has been alleged, period,” Mr. Cuomo said.
The sudden mass defection of members of Mr. Cuomo’s own party marked one of the most stinging rebukes of a sitting governor in the state’s history, prompting new questions about his ability to weather the most severe political crisis of his decade-long tenure.
“Governor Cuomo has lost the confidence of the people of New York,” said Mr. Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and one of the highest-ranking members of Congress. “Governor Cuomo must resign.”
But Mr. Cuomo suggested hours later that his fellow New York Democrats pressing for his resignation were doing so because of “political expediency,” and “without knowing any facts and substance.”
Several women, some of them current or former state employees, have accused the governor of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior, including an unidentified aide who this week said Mr. Cuomo groped her in the Executive Mansion. Last month, Lindsey Boylan, a former administration official, said the governor gave her an unsolicited kiss on the lips, and Charlotte Bennett, a former aide who is 25, said the governor had asked her invasive questions, such as whether she had sex with older men.
As members of his own party and former allies turned against him, Mr. Cuomo — a 40-year-veteran of New York politics and the son of a former governor — also sought to make his isolation into a virtue, suggesting that he was being punished because he was “not part of the political club.”
“And you know what?” he said. “I’m proud of it.”
Mr. Cuomo said he was determined to continue “doing my job,” but that seemed imperiled by both political opposition in Albany and elsewhere.
The day began with a rapid succession of statements from the members of Congress, issued through emailed news releases or Twitter, with many of them citing the most recent allegations of sexual misconduct against the governor to justify their demand for his resignation.
Representative Carolyn Maloney, a longtime member of Congress who chairs the powerful House Oversight Committee, said she admired the women who have spoken about claims of harassment by the governor, linking their disclosures to the #MeToo movement.
“We have come a long way, but now is the time to finally ensure that this generation’s courage stops harassment once and for all,” Ms. Maloney said in a statement.
Also calling for Mr. Cuomo to step down on Friday were Representatives Jamaal Bowman, Yvette Clarke, Antonio Delgado, Adriano Espaillat, Brian Higgins, Mondaire Jones, Sean Patrick Maloney, Grace Meng, Joe Morelle, Paul Tonko, Ritchie Torres and Nydia M. Velázquez. Another House Democrat, Kathleen Rice of Long Island, had already asked Mr. Cuomo to resign.
Hours after Mr. Cuomo’s impromptu news conference on Friday, Mr. Schumer and Ms. Gillibrand issued their joint statement in a news release.
Around the same time, Representative Hakeem Jeffries, the New York City Democrat who serves as the House Democratic caucus chair, issued a statement that stopped just short of calling on Mr. Cuomo to resign.
“Under these extraordinary circumstances, the governor must seriously consider whether he can continue to effectively lead the state,” he said. “No one is above the law.”
Representative Gregory Meeks issued a similar statement, saying Mr. Cuomo should step down only if the scandals were distracting from the state’s coronavirus response.
All told, 16 of the state’s 19 House Democrats have demanded Mr. Cuomo’s resignation, as well as its two Democratic senators. Most of New York’s eight Republican representatives had already said the governor should step down.
Even those stopping short of a full-throated resignation demand were expressing concerns about the governor’s ability to run the state amid the swirling accusations, particularly as the pandemic continues and a budget deadline looms less than three weeks away. Some lawmakers were suggesting that Mr. Cuomo might simply step aside — not actually resign — and let Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul take his place until the investigations were complete.
Others, including President Biden, have echoed the governor’s pleas to await the results of an independent investigation into the sexual harassment claims overseen by the state attorney general, Letitia James. That investigation, conducted by two outside lawyers deputized by Ms. James, began this week.
The backlash from New York Democrats is a troubling sign for Mr. Cuomo, who effectively controls the state party and has been perhaps the state’s most famous politician during his time in office, particularly since the beginning of the pandemic, when his virus briefings became must-watch television, and his name was whispered as a possible presidential contender.
The three-term governor is confronting two crises simultaneously:
The coordination of the calls to resign also marked the sudden deterioration of the governor’s standing. Indeed, many of the members who released statements on Friday had previously said they supported investigations, not resignation.
Over the past week, as the governor’s scandals deepened, however, some of the delegation’s Democrats began talking informally with each other about their views on Mr. Cuomo’s fate, according to two people familiar with the conversations.
With allegations mounting, the members realized it was only a matter of time before they would have to turn their backs on him, one of the people said. That became especially clear on Sunday, when the majority leader of the State Senate, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, asked Mr. Cuomo to resign, making her the most powerful Democrat to have done so at that point.
The tipping point came later this week when an unidentified aide said Mr. Cuomo had groped her at the Executive Mansion in Albany, the most sexually overt allegation against the governor to date.
Lawmakers and their staff traded phone calls over the last 24 hours, reaching a decision by Thursday night, but postponing the statements until Friday to avoid overshadowing Mr. Biden’s big coronavirus speech on Thursday, one person said.
One reason for the unified calls from House members was to ensure that no one person drew too much ire from Mr. Cuomo, who could influence how new congressional districts are drawn in the state, and could conceivably try to punish one or two people, but not a dozen, by drawing tougher lines, one person said.
Mr. Nadler, noting that the accusations against Mr. Cuomo were serious and credible, said the governor deserved due process, but he said the matter at hand was “squarely a political judgment” at this point.
In a joint statement, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Mr. Bowman, both members of the party’s ascendant progressive wing, also cited the latest accusation leveled against the governor. “Governor Cuomo can no longer effectively lead in the face of so many challenges,” they said.
Mr. Cuomo has strenuously denied the claims that he touched anyone inappropriately while admitting that some of his remarks to staffers could have been misconstrued as “unwanted flirtation.”
“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended,” Mr. Cuomo said, in a statement released on Feb. 28, a day after The New York Times reported on a series of intensely personal remarks of a sexual nature that Ms. Bennett said the governor had made.
The calls for resignation came one day after the New York State Assembly announced a plan to launch an investigation that could pave the way for the potential impeachment of Mr. Cuomo.
On Thursday evening, after nearly 60 Democratic state lawmakers signed on to a statement requesting that Mr. Cuomo step down, the Assembly said it would open an inquiry into the governor’s actions, a broad mandate that could also include looking into Mr. Cuomo’s attempt to obscure the full extent of the death toll of nursing home residents.
As of Friday, there was still not enough support for impeachment — last seen in New York in 1913 — among ruling Democrats in Albany’s State Assembly.
On Friday, Mr. Cuomo, however, said “people know the difference between playing politics, bowing to cancel culture, and the truth.”
He pleaded for patience and asked New Yorkers to “wait for the facts” — from the two pending investigations of his behavior — before passing judgment.
“No one wants them to happen more quickly and more thoroughly than I do,” he said.
Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.