NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered a farewell address to New Yorkers on Monday after more than a decade in office and nearly a year of scandal surrounding his administration.
The defiant governor continued to defend himself against what he called a politicized attorney general’s report substantiating sexual harassment allegations that spurred calls for — and eventually resulted in — his resignation.
“The truth is always ultimately revealed. The attorney general’s report was designed to be a political firecracker on an explosive topic, and it worked,” he said. “There was a political and media stampede. But the truth will out in time. Of that, I am confident.”
Cuomo’s term will end at 11:59 p.m. Monday, just under two weeks after he announced he would resign rather than face a likely impeachment battle over sexual harassment allegations.
The embattled governor acknowledged that despite his instinct to remain in office and fight the “unfair” and “unjust” allegations, the right thing to do for New York was to step aside and avoid “governmental paralysis.”
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul was scheduled be sworn in as New York’s first female governor just after midnight in a brief, private ceremony overseen by the state’s chief judge, Janet DiFiore. She was expected to hold a public ceremony Tuesday morning.
Siena College Professor Leonard Cutler noted Hochul “plans to be much more transparent, much more inclusive,” than Gov. Cuomo.
On Monday, Hochul appointed two women to key positions in her cabinet: Karen Persichilli Keogh will become Hochul’s secretary and Elizabeth Fine will serve as counsel for Hochul.
Hochul will keep several Cuomo Cabinet members for at least the first 45 days of her administration to help the transition.
After Hochul is sworn in Tuesday, she will meet with leaders of the State Senate and Assembly before giving a public address to the people of New York.
Hochul will inherit immense challenges as she takes over an administration facing criticism for inaction in Cuomo’s distracted final months in office.
COVID-19 has refused to abate. Schools are set to reopen in the coming weeks, with big decisions to be made about whether to require masks for students or vaccination for teachers. The state’s economic recovery from the pandemic is still incomplete.
Cuomo’s resignation comes after an independent investigation overseen by state Attorney General Letitia James concluded there was credible evidence he’d sexually harassed at least 11 women, including an aide who said he groped her breast and has since filed a complaint with the Albany County Sheriff’s Office.
Investigators also said Cuomo’s senior staff retaliated against at least one of those women and worked to undermine the credibility of others.
Cuomo insisted he didn’t touch anyone inappropriately, but said he wouldn’t force the state to endure an impeachment trial.
Cuomo also faced a legislative investigation into whether he misled the public about COVD-19 deaths in nursing homes to protect his reputation as a pandemic leader and improperly used state employees and resources while writing a book about his handling of the pandemic that may net him $5 million.
During his farewell address, Cuomo championed New York for its resilience throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and waxed poetic about the state’s progressive achievements during his adminsitration — marriage equality and tough gun safety laws, among them.
“Thank you for the honor of serving as governor of New York. Thank you for allowing me to represent you. Thank you for empowering me to fight for you. Thank you for trusting me through COVID. Thank you for making New York State the progressive capital of the nation,” Cuomo said. “Thank you for the honor of serving you.”
Cuomo, 63, has said little of what he plans to do after he leaves office. The three-term governor filed for retirement with the state comptroller’s office last week, effective Sept. 1. His annual pension benefit is estimated to be as much as $50,000 per year.