Brooklyn, WRGB — Former Governor Andrew M. Cuomo spoke at God’s Battalion of Prayer Church in Brooklyn Sunday.
His spokesperson sent a transcript of his prepared remarks.
Thank you for having me here today as we celebrate the First Sunday of Lent.
As you probably know I’ve gone through a difficult period the past few months. I resigned as Governor, the press roasted me, my colleagues were ridiculed, my brother was fired, it was ugly.
It was the first time that I was glad that my father wasn’t here so he didn’t have to see it.
I haven’t spoken about it in public until now and I wanted to talk about it here with you because God’s guidance is helping me through.
Let go — let God.
I believe in life God sends us challenges. Life will knock us down at some point and the question is what we do in that moment. Do we get angry, do we feel sorry for ourselves or do we learn from it and get back up off the mat?
But it is hard, very hard. It is a struggle. It is a bridge that one needs to cross. And it’s a long bridge. The bridge goes from anger to acceptance, from resentment to reconciliation.
I am working to cross that bridge and I believe that God has a reason for our path.
I pray on it and the good book has offered me guidance.
Psalm 46: tells us God is our refuge and therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way.
The Lord tells us that our suffering is part of life and that our suffering teaches us compassion.
And the crossing of the bridge starts with telling the truth – that is the toll one must pay – even when the truth is hard to hear because in life you will never solve a problem you’re unwilling to admit.
So let me tell you my truth and get it off my chest so we can talk about the important issues we face today.
My father used to say that government is an honorable profession but that politics can be a dirty business.
That is especially true today when politics is so mean and extreme. When even the Democratic Party chooses to cancel people in the face of disagreement.
Last February several women raised issues about my behavior. As I said then and I say to you today in this hallowed hall, my behavior has been the same for 40 years in public life, but that was the problem. For some, especially younger people, there is a new sensitivity.
No one ever told me I made them feel uncomfortable and I never sensed that I caused any discomfort to anyone, I was trying to do the opposite. But I understand that was my error. I have been called by some old fashioned, out of touch and been told that my behavior was not politically correct or appropriate. I accept that.
Social norms evolve quickly and we are proud of that evolution, it is progress, but I didn’t appreciate how fast their perspective changed and I should have – no excuses -- and I am truly sorry. I learned a powerful and painful lesson.
God isn’t finished with me yet and everyday I ask him for his guidance to help me grow and learn.
However, the truth is also that contrary to what my political opponents would have you believe, nothing I did violated any law or regulation. I said that from the start and I would defend any allegation.
But the political sharks in Albany smelled blood and exploited the situation for their own political purpose.
Now, since last August, five District Attorneys have investigated the report of the much publicized 11 violations of law and do you know how many cases of the 11 they found to bring – 10, 9, 8 — ZERO.
Why? Because there is a difference between an individual’s opinion as to what they believe is offensive behavior and a legal violation.
The State Assembly and Charles Lavine also did a fraudulent, unethical report looking at the State’s nursing home management during COVID.
The Manhattan District Attorney investigated those policies and said no laws were broken.
That’s six district attorneys from all across the state — democrats and republicans — male and female, black and white. Tens of millions of dollars spent – your tax dollars – and they didn’t find a single case.
So 11 months later the truth is known. But it’s too late. Justice too long delayed is justice denied.
The report did the damage it was designed to do.
My father was right: politics can be a dirty business.
I have always loved this State and I believe in government’s capacity to do good. But seeing what they did here – the abuse of power and corruption broke my heart.
And I am trying to cross the bridge from a negative place to a positive place.
Romans 5: we can find glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance.
Perseverance. Get up off the mat.
We just celebrated Black History Month. Congressman John Lewis was a great hero, a man I had the good fortune to know and work with. He started with Dr. King — crossing the most transformative bridge — the Edmund Pettis bridge in Alabama — which we commemorate tomorrow. Congressman Lewis said:
“Do not get lost in the sea of despair be hopeful be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day a week a month or year but a struggle of a lifetime. Never ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble necessary trouble”.
I find inspiration in those words.
Genesis tells us that good can come from suffering / and
Life is about tomorrow not yesterday.
They broke my heart, but they didn’t break my spirit.
I want to take the energy that could make me bitter and use it to make us better.
Not for me – but for others.
And again, it starts with the truth.
My situation is illustrative of a larger issue that must be addressed because it endangers all of us.
The truth is the so-called cancel culture mentality is growing and is dangerous and Democrats must beware.
The actions against me were prosecutorial misconduct – that is now clear. They did not act in the interest of justice – the District Attorneys proved that -- they acted in their own self-interest. They wanted me out because they wanted my job.
We know that was their motivation by their own actions.
But they actually used the cancel culture mentality to enable and advance their self-serving political scheme.
Why did they announce to the world 11 legal violations when the District Attorneys showed they couldn’t even prove 1 case – We know why – to create a shock value – to inflame the cancel culture, light up the internet and stampede the press and politicians.
To do with politics that which they couldn’t do with the law.
They used cancel culture to effectively overturn an election and that was the greatest Albany arrogance. They didn’t elect me, you did.
If they wanted my job or the Democratic extremists believed I was in their way or they didn’t like me or my politics, fine, defeat me in an election where you decide.
But who are they to override your choice. What happened to voting rights and democratic elections – our cherished priorities.
With cancel culture, we now live in a frightening new world where any accusation can trigger condemnation without facts, without due process.
We are a nation of laws – not a nation of Tweets.
Twitter and newspaper headlines have replaced a judge and a jury. And woe unto us if we allow that to become our new justice system.
The cancel culture mindset is antithetical to the principles of the Democratic Party because cancel culture is about intolerance and exclusion. The Democratic Party is premised on tolerance and inclusion.
The Democratic Party is a big tent party and we try to reconcile differences, not revile them.
Social media and Twitter spread cancel culture like a virus. They allow the extreme minority to overpower the reasonable majority.
When the emotion of the mob overcomes the integrity of the justice system, the intelligence of sound policy debate and honest analysis by the press, we are lost.
The cancel culture evidences a new extremism.
We have seen a similar phenomenon before among Republicans with the Tea Party.
In many ways the Tea Party first founded what we now call a cancel culture mentality with their hyper aggressive dogmatic insistence on their rabid ideology.
The Tea Party alienated many thoughtful Republicans. Extremism does that by its very nature.
Democrats exalt in being called progressive.
I tell you today that there is no result that is progressive that is achieved by means that are this regressive.
Don’t underestimate the strength and virulence of the cancel culture. It’s not just in politics. Today even some members of the press are afraid to ask questions that challenge the so-called politically correct cancel culture thinking.
Do you know how many reporters told me they knew the report against me was a fraud but were afraid to challenge Me Too Claims?
My brother Chris was fired. He didn’t violate any journalistic rule, he wasn’t reporting on the story, he is my brother. Everyone knew that and CNN used it for their benefit. He was fired because giants like CNN, Time Warner, AT&T, and big shots like John Malone and John Stankey were in the middle of a merger, and even they were afraid of the cancel culture mob. And when they have to raise their hand and tell the truth, you will know.
The Washington Post masthead says ‘democracy dies in darkness’. Well, democracy dies in silence also.
And the cancel culture creates another major problem for the Democratic Party. We just heard from the nation’s voters loud and clear in the last elections where Democrats lost and now Democrats are worried about the mid-term elections.
We should be.
When you are driving down the road and the warning sign is flashing and it says, “beware of the cliff ahead” – pay attention.
The Democratic Party is spending too much time arguing amongst themselves, canceling each other, and pontificating about their ideal rather than focusing on what’s real.
Do you know what’s real? Schools in poor areas that don’t teach, public housing without heat, homeless on the streets, muggings in the subways, young people dying everyday, crime and grime. New York City going backwards, not forwards. That’s what’s real.
And Mayor Eric Adams is real and he is right. They say defund the police – what does that even mean. Listen to the words. Unless you live in a Manhattan high rise with private security and a doorman guarding you . When you dial 911, you want someone to come.
Do you know what else is real? What’s real is the transcendent threat to our nation’s very democracy. It’s two words: Donald Trump.
I’ve known Trump for years and I’ve fought with him for years. And I know what he will do.
While Democrats are busy infighting, Trump and his allies are mobilizing.
They are strategically organizing on how to override the election system when they don’t like the outcome. And they don’t like the outcome when you vote and they lose.
We see Trump starting his own news network — he calls it “Truth” — which is as ironic as it is diabolical.
Trump is appealing to the far right and will exploit fear, frustration and hate in this nation.
Trump will attack Democrats who describe themselves as socialists and allege that the Democratic Party is now unAmerican.
Trump will say Democrats controlled everything — the Presidency, the Senate and the House — and they got nothing done and crime went up, inflation went up, the stock market went down, and Russia invaded Ukraine and tens of thousands suffered or died. Let’s remember them in our prayers today.
We cannot let the politics of hate and division win. It’s not enough to demonize Trump – people already know who he is – Democrats must show the people of this nation why Democrats should lead.
There is still time, but we have to do it now.
We must look in the mirror and remember who we are and what made the Democratic Party special in the first place:
We told the nation that while in many ways we are a shining city on a hill, the truth is that not everyone is sharing in the splendor and glory.
The bright sun of opportunity and equality does not shine on everyone, everywhere, there are too many living in the shadows.
Democrats spoke for those in the shadows, those without power or position, but with potential and promise.
And most important — the Democratic Party did something about it — it made an actual difference in people’s lives – passing social security, Medicare and building the Labor Movement.
We in New York showed that the Democratic Party can still be that party – the party that improves your lives. We raised the minimum wage to $15. We passed the strongest gun safety laws. We enacted free college tuition for the middle class and paid family leave.
We changed lives and led the nation. Biden announced this week he is still trying to pass these same measures.
Look around you today in Brooklyn — the new Kosciuszko Bridge, the new L-Train Tunnel, the new Moynihan Train Hall, the New LaGuardia and JFK, the new Shirley Chisom State Park — all improving your life.
And when this country faced the greatest threat in a generation – during COVID – it was New Yorkers – not the President of the United States – who stood up, told the truth, and led the way. We saved many lives and we should be proud.
Yes, this is a time for impatience — but constructive impatience.
If you want to cancel something — cancel the federal gridlock, cancel the incompetence, cancel the infighting. Cancel crime, cancel homelessness. Cancel education inequality. Cancel poverty. Cancel racism.
Be outraged, but be outraged at what really matters — and that is what matters to you.
My last point is this. A woman asked me today if I am at peace. That is an interesting question. Let me say this, I am not across the bridge yet, but I know that I am blessed. God has been better to me than I deserve. Three magnificent daughters and a great family, friends who have rallied, the truth has now been brought forth, and to have served you as Governor of the State of New York is the honor of my life.
And I’m proud of how we did it. I did what I said I would do. You elected me to fight for you, to fight back against the Albany hacks, flacks and bureaucrats, to say hell no to the status quo, to make government work for you rather than for the special interest few, to make New York the best because we believe we are better than the rest.
You didn’t elect me to suffer fools gladly – state government was dysfunctional when you elected me – you didn’t elect me to play nice in the sandbox with the Albany politicians – you elected me to go there and take the sand and build something for you. And we did.
So I am blessed, I have many options in life and I am open to all, but on the question if I am at peace, No I am not.
But I don’t want to be at peace, and by the way I don’t think you should be at peace either.
We have too much work to do to be at peace. We can be at peace when they put us in the box, and close the top, we can rest in peace, but right now we have to rise up, right now we have to fight the good fight because the struggle continues.
Let’s stand up for true progressive politics and a government that does what it said it would do and makes a real difference.
Let’s stand up against the radical right and their demagogues.
Let’s stand up and say we don’t judge by color of skin but rather by content of character.
Let’s stand up and say proudly I am my brother’s keeper, and we believe in Matthew 25.
Let’s stand up and say the greatest success is shared success and the greatest feast has the most people at the table.
Let’s stand up and tell the nation that the strongest four letter word is not hate – but love.
So I’m going to make some noise, I’m going to get into some trouble, I’m going to get into some good trouble, some necessary trouble. And I hope you join me.