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Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo blames 'cancel culture' for his downfall

 Former NY governor Andrew Cuomo gave a speech on March 17, 2022, available on a live stream, where he continued an effort to rebuild his damaged reputation.
Karen DeWitt NYS Public Radio
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Former NY governor Andrew Cuomo gave a speech on March 17, 2022, available on a live stream, where he continued an effort to rebuild his damaged reputation.

In his second public appearance in two weeks, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo decried 'cancel culture' and offered prescriptions for fixing social ills and the government in a speech Thursday.

The speech was part of an ongoing attempt by the disgraced former governor — who resigned after allegations of sexual harassment — to rebuild his reputation and possibly run against his successor, Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Cuomo left his job last August after an investigation by State Attorney General Tish James found he sexually harassed 11 women, and as he was likely facing an impeachment proceeding. Cuomo, who has said he didn’t do anything wrong and was the victim of cancel culture, criticized “woke” and “extremist” Democrats, who he said have created a “toxic mix for the body politic.”

“Cancel culture says if you don’t agree with me and my point of view, you should be canceled. It is communicated through social media quickly and effectively,” Cuomo said. “They demonize anyone who doesn’t agree with their position. It's a social death penalty.”

The Rev. Ruben Diaz, a former state senator, City Council member and Bronx political power player, hosted the event. He highlighted Cuomo’s efforts to help Puerto Rico after devastating storms.

LGBTQ+ advocates criticized Cuomo for appearing with Diaz, who in the past has made homophobic remarks. Cuomo acknowledged his differences with Diaz when the former governor advocated for legalizing same-sex marriage a decade ago, but he said the two have since made up.

Cuomo, answering questions from the group of evangelical Christians, said James' report was a political hit job, and he said “extremists” who he said control the state Legislature were out to get him. He said five district attorneys who looked into the allegations declined to prosecute.

“How can you have a report that said 11 cases, and then it goes to qualified law enforcement and they find no cases?” Cuomo said. “It was a fraud. They wanted me out.”

All of the district attorneys said that they found the accusers to be credible.

In a statement, a spokesperson for James said, “Another day, another attempt by the former governor to attack the brave women who called out his abuse. Thousands of pages of transcripts, exhibits, videos, and other evidence have already been publicly released, but these lies continue in an effort to mask the truth: Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women. There is a mountain of evidence to support these findings, which were corroborated by the Assembly’s report and deemed credible by multiple DAs. New Yorkers are tired of these excuses.”

CNBC reported on Wednesday that Cuomo is considering running in a primary against Hochul.

Cuomo told reporters after the event that he’s considering “all options” and believes there’s still time to petition to be on the ballot if he chooses to run.

If Cuomo were to run, he laid out what could be a campaign platform, advocating for changes to the state’s bail reform laws. Cuomo said he originally supported bail reform, which ended most forms of cash bail, but now believes the law needs to be tightened to help cut rising crime rates.

He criticized state lawmakers, saying they are too “afraid” of the wrath of the left to act.

“Pull your head out of the sand, and make whatever changes you need to make to fix it,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo also took shots at the state budget, which is flush with cash from federal relief packages and higher-than-anticipated tax collections, calling it “bloated.” He also predicted that the increased spending would lead to future deficits. Hochul’s spending plan is balanced for the next five years, though the Legislature wants to add to it.

Cuomo, after staying out of the public eye for more than six months, appeared at a church in Brooklyn on March 6, and he’s been running ads on television, financed by his multi-million-dollar campaign war chest. The State Board of Elections approved the use of the funds because Cuomo could possibly launch a political campaign at some point in the future.

The former governor’s increasing reentry into public life comes as a state comptroller’s audit found that Cuomo and his administration mismanaged nursing home policy during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report finds the administration hid the true number of deaths from the public, and that “persistent underinvestment in public health” intensified the problem.

It also comes as Hochul signed new anti-sexual harassment laws that party stemmed from actions that Cuomo and his aides were accused of doing. The laws include a ban on releasing personnel records of an employee who makes an allegation of sexual harassment. Cuomo’s administration leaked former Cuomo aide Lindsay Boylan’s employment records after Boylan said the former governor sexually harassed her on multiple occasions.

Hochul said the timing of the bill signing has nothing to do with her predecessor’s reemergence in public life.

“It’s Women’s History Month, so we’ve been planning this since I took office,” Hochul said.

The governor said she’s not thinking about the political campaign right now or about potential opponents, and is instead focusing on getting the state budget done. It’s due at the end of the month.

Copyright 2022 WXXI News. To see more, visit WXXI News.