New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul distanced herself from the "sickening" sexual harassment allegations involving Gov. Andrew Cuomo and said she intends to run for a full term as governor next year in her first live interview since Cuomo announced his resignation Tuesday.
"That was very much an insular situation what was going on in his office," Hochul told Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Thursday. "I think if anyone knows my career they know that I have not been close to the governor, it's no secret.
"So I've not been in the rooms when this has happened, and it is actually sickening to me to see this surface. And my heart goes out to the young women in particular who have been toiling in this environment."
Cuomo announced Tuesday that he would resign in 14 days following an investigation by the state's attorney general that found 11 women credible in their claims that he sexually harassed them.
Nine of the women allegedly harassed by Cuomo were state employees, and Cuomo subjected them to unwelcome touching and groping, and his office retaliated against one of the women after she spoke out about it, the report alleged.
Cuomo faces potential criminal and civil actions, but has admitted no wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime. Hochul told Anne Thompson on TODAY Thursday that she has "absolutely not" made any deal with Cuomo to pardon him should he be charged criminally and that it "has not come up in any conversation."
Hochul, 62, is set to become the first female governor in New York history and the 57th governor overall when she is sworn into office Aug. 24 when Cuomo's resignation takes effect. She said she plans on running for a full term in next year's gubernatorial election.
"I fully expect to," she told Savannah. "I'm prepared for this. I've led a life working in every level of government from Congress to local government. I am the most prepared person to assume this responsibility, and I'm going to ask the voters at some point for their faith in me again, but right now, I need their faith, I need their prayers, and I need their support to make sure we get this right."
She has made clear that she aims to transform the workplace culture in the executive chamber after the attorney general's report described it as hostile.
"At the end of my term, whenever it ends, no one will ever describe my administration as a toxic work environment," Hochul said in a news conference on Wednesday in Albany.
Hochul also considers fighting the spread of COVID-19 and getting the state's $200 billion economy back on track as top priorities.
With children in New York getting set to return to school next month, Hochul said she supports mask mandates for schools as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise.
"When I become governor this will become a key issue, and my view is that children and everyone in a school environment will be wearing masks," she said on TODAY. "That's just an opinion right now, I don't have the authority to make that the policy, and we're going to leave it up to school districts right now."
Hochul began her political career in the 1980s. In 1994, she won a local council seat in Hamburg, which is just outside of Buffalo. She later won a surprise victory in a U.S. House special election in 2011 before losing a re-election bid to Republican Chris Collins in 2012.
She has served under Cuomo as the state's second in command for six years, but distanced herself from the three-term governor after he resigned.
Lawmakers in New York's state legislature are still considering impeachment proceedings against Cuomo, which would prohibit him from running for political office in the state again if he was impeached.
"I don't believe it's my position to weigh in on that situation, but I have full confidence in the assembly judiciary committee as well as the full assembly to do what is right," Hochul said.
"I don't have a voice in this, and I want that process to play out independently of the responsibilities that I will have, which are quite weighty on Day One," she added.