New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement yesterday he will resign demonstrates that holding politicians responsible for their behavior can – and must – happen, according to criminal justice and politics experts available for interviews.
Cuomo is accused of being sexually inappropriate with 11 women whose claims were investigated and found credible, according to a report issued last week by New York Attorney General Letitia James. Cuomo denies the allegations. Although his resignation will take effect in two weeks, it may not allow him to sidestep a potential impeachment process by the New York Assembly, ongoing criminal investigations into the sexual harassment allegations and still other probes into Cuomo’s possible misuse of state funds and potential under-reporting of COVID-19 deaths in the state’s nursing homes.
New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will be the first woman to serve as the state’s governor once Cuomo steps down.
The criminal investigations into Cuomo’s behavior toward women – like many similar cases involving powerful men that have come to light in the #MeToo era, again put the experience of abuse survivors on the national stage, according to Melissa Morabito, a UMass Lowell expert on how law enforcement responds to sexual assault and domestic violence cases.
“Inappropriate touching is a crime – the FBI tracks reports of it as ‘forcible fondling’ – but it is rarely thought of as illegal even by many survivors and this needs to change,” Morabito said. “The New York AG’s investigation and Cuomo’s resignation are good first steps but what happens next will matter as well. Will there be a prosecution? Will he be held accountable?”
Morabito is an associate professor in UMass Lowell’s School of Criminology and Justice Studies. Before her career in higher education, she served as a policy analyst for the U.S. Department of Justice. She is available to discuss:
- The reasons many survivors do not report these crimes;
- The effect of high-profile cases on survivors who have not come forward;
- The criminal justice process in these cases.
Politically, the harassment allegations against Cuomo were the last straw for “people who were fed up with Caesar,” according to John Cluverius, a UMass Lowell politics and polling expert.
“There’s this wrong idea that politics has moved past the #MeToo movement and that politicians can get away with harassment, but that’s really not true,” he said. “A lot of people were predicting Cuomo could just dig in and remain governor, but that didn’t happen. His resignation reminds us that when mired in scandal, opposition from one’s political allies will end their career much faster than opposition from their foes. If the people who can remove someone from office want them gone, they’re gone.”
Cluverius is available to talk about:
- Whether New York lawmakers will move forward with impeaching Cuomo;
- What’s next for the state’s Democratic party;
- The chances James could run for governor.
Cluverius is the associate director of the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion and an associate professor of political science. Before joining the university, he worked as a political operative for a variety of candidates for elective office and interest groups.