A day after calls grew louder for investigations — one independent and the other by state Attorney General Letitia James — into sexual harassment allegations against Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the governor held a press conference where he apologized for his alleged comments and announced he would not resign.

Perspective is important here. Before anyone jumps to easy conclusions, an independent investigation must be carried out to show the behavior described by Cuomo’s accusers is credible. That is due process and, like all citizens, the governor is entitled to it.

But Cuomo is not entitled to wield his power to devalue or humiliate women. Cuomo is in serious trouble and he must know it. Three women came forward independent of one another and told stories that are remarkably similar. And where there is smoke, there is fire. It’s possible that many more women will be emboldened to come forward with their own accounts.

It’s also feasible to think that, much like the case of Harvey Weinstein, Cuomo’s actions reflect a pattern. Don’t be surprised to learn that others in his administration knew of this pattern and did nothing to stop it, either figuring that “these things happen” in the workplace and it will all blow over, or they are too fearful of Cuomo’s wrath to stand up to him.

Depending on what comes from the investigation, appropriate action should be taken against Cuomo. That’s not to say the punishment should fit the crime. But if the governor offers sincere and vocal contrition for the harm he has caused and does all he can, and we do mean all, to exorcise his behavior, he may get a second chance.

But he seems to be taking the typical abuser’s route. Offering denials along with his apologies and reaching out with a smug, callow “I’m sorry you feel that way.” The governor needs to take a good, hard look at himself and acknowledge he acted inappropriately and see that it never happens again. Cuomo is on the verge of losing his emergency powers. If he continues on his current track, he may lose his reputation and his career.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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