Cuomo’s refusal to resign evokes comparisons to Northam’s resistance after yearbook photo scandal

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The continued refusal by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign in the face of mounting scandals is drawing comparisons to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who wouldn’t resign in 2019 despite calls from members of his own party to step down over a scandal of his own.

“#Cuomo is pulling a Northam,” University of Virginia Center for Politics Director Larry Sabato tweeted Monday, comparing the two Democrat governors. 

On Sunday, right-leaning commentator Hugh Hewitt tweeted that Cuomo is “Going ‘full Northam.'” 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo apologized for his past behavior following allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior by three women, telling reporters on Wednesday that he is "embarrassed" by his actions.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo apologized for his past behavior following allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior by three women, telling reporters on Wednesday that he is “embarrassed” by his actions.

Cuomo has been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment and creating an uncomfortable work environment with apparent sexual advances. He’s also accused of covering up nursing home deaths in New York at the outset of the pandemic last year which many attribute to the New York policy which sent coronavirus-positive patients into nursing homes, even after federal guidance on whether to do so changed.

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Further, Cuomo and his top aides are accused of creating a hostile work environment, intimidating and mistreating both subordinates and reporters. The Wall Street Journal Saturday reported on the most recent allegation of sexual harassment against Cuomo from a woman named Ana Liss, and detailed an allegedly “toxic” working environment in the governor’s office. 

Northam’s 2019 scandal was over a photo that appeared on his medical school yearbook page showing two men — one dressed in blackface and the other dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam answers a question during a press briefing inside the Patrick Henry Building in Richmond, V. Tuesday, June 9, 2020. (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam answers a question during a press briefing inside the Patrick Henry Building in Richmond, V. Tuesday, June 9, 2020. (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

Northam in early 2019 faced massive pressure to resign from Democrats both in Virginia and nationwide. 

“There is no place for racism in America,” President Biden, who had not yet announced his presidential campaign, said. “Governor Northam has lost all moral authority and should resign immediately, Justin Fairfax is the leader Virginia needs now.”

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“Leaders are called to a higher standard, and the stain of racism should have no place in the halls of government,” Vice President Kamala Harris, who just days earlier had announced her presidential campaign, said. “The Governor of Virginia should step aside so the public can heal and move forward together.”

Among the many other national Democrats who called for Northam to resign at the time were Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., (who is now the Senate majority leader); House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; and former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, Virginia Democratic Party Chair Susan Swecker said that Northam should “immediately resign” and “no longer has our confidence or our support” and the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus also called for his resignation. 

Cuomo now faces calls to resign from state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, both Democrats. As of Sunday afternoon, at least 35 Democrats and 12 Republicans in the New York state legislature had called for Cuomo to step down.  

Cuomo said on Sunday that “there is no way I resign” while New York Attorney General Letitia James is investigating the allegations against him. He said “let’s get the findings, and then we’ll go from there. But I’m not going to be distracted by this either.”

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The White House did not respond to a request for comment Monday asking whether Biden and Harris now call on Cuomo to resign. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last week that the president believes “every woman should be heard” and there should be an “independent review” of the allegations against Cuomo, but that was before even more allegations against the governor came out. 

Cuomo’s office did not respond to a separate request for comment on Monday, which also asked whether the governor is considering resignation. 

The scandals faced by Northam and Cuomo differ in key ways. The photo Northam allegedly appeared in was taken while he was at medical school decades ago, whereas the allegations against Cuomo are from the past few years while he’s been the governor of New York.

The allegations against Cuomo also involve active behavior by the governor making sexual remarks to much younger aides that they in some cases interpreted as propositions for sex. 

Neither governor has taken responsibility for the allegations against him.

After initially admitting to being in the racially insensitive yearbook photo, Northam reversed and denied that the photo was of him — a review could not conclusively prove whether Northam was in the photo or not. 

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“I am not in the racist and offensive photo that appears under my name in the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook,” Northam said in a May 2019 statement. “That being said, I know and understand the events of early February and my response to them have caused hurt for many Virginians and for that, I am sorry. I felt it was important to take accountability for the photo’s presence on my page, but rather than providing clarity, I instead deepened pain and confusion.”

Cuomo meanwhile admitted to some of the allegations about his behavior. But he only apologized “that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” and said it “was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it.”

“I feel awful about it and frankly I am embarrassed by it,” Cuomo also said, adding that he “never knew at the time I was making anyone feel uncomfortable.”

Cuomo has also denied touching any women inappropriately, as some have alleged. 

Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer, Evie Fordham and Remy Numa contributed to this report.

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