ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Melissa DeRosa, a fixture next to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for months during his coronavirus news conferences, resigned late Sunday on the heels of a report that found Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, leaving the governor without his top aide as he faces the prospect of impeachment.
DeRosa, who had been one of Cuomo’s most fierce defenders and strategists, said in a statement sent to multiple new organizations that serving the people of New York had been “the greatest honor of my life.”
But she added that “Personally, the past two years have been emotionally and mentally trying.”
She didn’t give a more specific reason for her resignation.
“I am forever grateful for the opportunity to have worked with such talented and committed colleagues on behalf of our state,” she said.
DeRosa’s departure comes as Cuomo has dug in for the fight of his political life despite the threat of criminal investigations and widespread calls for his impeachment.
Scores of Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have urged him to leave office or face an impeachment battle he probably cannot win.
About two-thirds of state Assembly members have already said they favor an impeachment trial if he refuses to resign. Nearly all 63 members of the state Senate have called for Cuomo to step down or be removed.
More punishing news for the governor is expected Monday when an Assembly committee meets to discuss possible impeachment proceedings and “CBS This Morning” is scheduled to broadcast the first TV interview from an executive assistant who accused Cuomo of groping her breast.
In her first public interview in which she identified herself, Brittany Commisso told CBS and the Times-Union newspaper, of Albany, that what Cuomo did was a crime and that he “needs to be held accountable.”
Commisso has said Cuomo reached under her shirt and fondled her when they were alone in a room at the Executive Mansion last year and on another occasion rubbed her rear end while they posed for a photo. She was the first woman to file a criminal complaint against Cuomo.
“He broke the law,” she said in an excerpt of an interview scheduled to be aired in full on Monday.
The Associated Press does not identify alleged victims of sexual misconduct unless they speak out publicly, as Commisso has done.
Cuomo, who has denied touching any women inappropriately, has largely been holed up in the governor’s mansion since the release of a 168-page report written by two independent attorneys selected by the state attorney general to investigate his behavior.
His lawyers have attacked the credibility and motives of his accusers.
DeRosa, who often defended Cuomo when he faced public criticism, had been with the administration since 2013. She got the title “secretary to the governor” in 2017, and was probably the most recognizable face in the administration after Cuomo.
She appeared by his side in most of his news briefings and often fielded policy questions from reporters when the governor didn’t know enough details to answer.
DeRosa was mentioned 187 times in the attorney general’s report, which detailed the administration’s efforts to discredit some of his accusers.
The report described DeRosa as a central figure in his office’s retaliation against one of the women, Lindsey Boylan, after she became the first person to speak out publicly. The administration released internal memos showing that Boylan had, herself, been the subject of complaints about toxic workplace behavior.
The investigators’ report also revealed some tension between DeRosa and Cuomo: She told investigators she was so upset with the way Cuomo had handled a conversation with one of his accusers, former aide Charlotte Bennett, that she angrily got out of his car when it stopped at a traffic light.
“She told the governor, ‘I can’t believe that this happened. I can’t believe you put yourself in a situation where you would be having any version of this conversation,’” the report said.
The governor’s lawyers have promised what will likely be a drawn-out fight to stay in office, and few see him as willing to quit.
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