Cuomo apologizes for harassment claims, vows to remain in office

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo pictured at a COVID-19 briefing in the state Capitol on Feb. 10. Courtesy of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Office

ALBANY — Two more former aides to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo came forward Saturday and accused him of sexual harassment.

The governor responded Sunday to the latest allegations lodged against him and reiterated his intention to stay in office despite them.

“I’m not going to resign because of allegations,” he said on a phone call with reporters Sunday. “The premise of resigning because of allegations is actually anti-democratic.”

The governor said he was elected by the people of New York state, and the people must be the ones to decide if he should hold office or not.

When asked specifically about the latest sexual harassment allegations of sexual harassment, the governor denied them.

Karen Hinton, Gov. Cuomo’s former press aide when he was secretary of Housing and Urban Development, told the Washington Post on Saturday that the governor sexually harassed her in December 2000.

She told the newspaper that Gov. Cuomo had held her in a very long, too-tight and overly intimate embrace in a Los Angeles hotel room.

The governor said Ms. Hinton has been a political adversary of his since their time working together at HUD. He said she has been “critical for many, many years and has made many, many accusations.”

The governor also indirectly addressed the accusations of Ana Liss, a former policy and operations aide for his office. The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday her account of her time working with the governor. She said Gov. Cuomo asked her if she had a boyfriend, called her sweetheart, touched her lower back at an event and kissed her hand as she got up from her desk near his office.

Ms. Liss said she interpreted the gestures as flirting at first, but as they went on, she began to feel they were demeaning and sexist.

The governor on Sunday said his actions were never intended to be harmful, harassing or make anyone uncomfortable. He said they were simply part of a much larger pattern, over his entire career, of making friendly office conversation by asking co-workers about their lives and relationships.

“That’s my way of doing friendly banter,” he said.

The governor said these new allegations, as well as the other allegations made against him by a number of former aides, must be investigated fully by New York’s Attorney General Letitia A. James before any further steps can be taken on the matter.

Last week, The New York Times reported 33-year-old Anna Ruch’s recount of an incident after meeting the governor at a Manhattan wedding in 2019. She alleged the governor held her face after they were introduced and asked if he could kiss her. Ms. Ruch said Gov. Cuomo had made her feel uncomfortable when he put his hand on her bare lower back.

Ms. Ruch’s account followed a Feb. 27 report, also in The New York Times, featuring 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett, who said the governor repeatedly asked her about her sex life, if she had ever had sex with older men and if she was monogamous in her relationships when she worked as Gov. Cuomo’s former executive assistant and health policy adviser at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic’s initial outbreak last spring.

The week prior, Lindsey Boylan, former Empire State Development chief and Gov. Cuomo’s special adviser, released a detailed account accusing the governor of sexually harassing her multiple times.

Ms. Boylan, who is running for Manhattan borough president, alleged “degrading,” “uncomfortable” and “insidious” harassment while working for Cuomo, and accused him of a nonconsensual kiss in his Manhattan office, comments comparing her looks to those of another woman he was rumored to have dated and unwanted touching of her lower back, arms and legs.

“Anybody can make an allegation to (the AG) and let the attorney general do her job,” he said Sunday. “She’s very good.”

He said that during his time as the state’s attorney general between 2007 and 2010, his office received and investigated a significant number of sexual harassment allegations against other state politicians. The governor said if there was an issue he brought it forward, but he never publicly discussed the allegations until they were verified to be true.

He said state politicians calling for his resignation, which include top Republicans in both the state Assembly and Senate, as well as a growing number of Democrats, aren’t able to “override elections.” The governor specifically called out state Sen. Alessandra R. Biaggi, D-Bronx, who is a prominent progressive.

Shortly after Sunday’s press call, state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, released a statement calling on Gov. Cuomo to resign “for the good of the state” citing the harassment scandal, the allegations that his administration lied about how many nursing home patients died of COVID-19 and his handling of some state infrastructure projects.

“Every day there is another account that is drawing away from the business of government,” she said. “New York is still in the midst of this pandemic and is still facing the societal, health and economic impacts of it. We need to govern without daily distraction.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, released a statement as well, which stopped short of calling for the governor to resign but did question if Gov. Cuomo can effectively govern with the harassment allegations hanging overhead.

“They don’t get to hear an allegation and make a determination on the allegation,” he said. “If that’s what Senator Biaggi wants to do, let’s release all the allegations that (the Joint Commission on Public Ethics) and the attorney general, the (district attorney) have about Senate members, let’s put them out in the public arena, and then let’s decide.”

Overall, Gov. Cuomo said he doesn’t want to be “distracted” by the unfolding sexual harassment scandal, and instead wants to focus intently on the task of addressing the significant damage the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted on the state.

“This is not about me and the accusations about me — the attorney general can handle that,” he said. “This is about doing the people’s business, and this next six months, I believe, will determine the future trajectory for New York state.”

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(3) comments

Chris B

“The premise of resignation is anti-democratic”??! No, pushing things like the SAFE Act through under emergency executive action is anti-Democratic,pay for play schemes are anti-democratic. His perception of office “banter” is creepy at best. He wants us to believe it’s as simple as a clerical mistake that can just be pencil whipped into nonexistence. Hold him accountable, progressives, or go down with the ship!

ScottMeyers

Remember this the next time Cuomo calls on someone else to resign. His "applies to thee but not to me" belief is typical of the narcissistic, corrupt, hypocrisy that is the only thing consistent with this man besides his bullying.

Any so called "progressive" defending this man at this point, with so many accusations, is not in fact a progressive but rather a partisan hack with no values or backbone.

Chris B

For once you have something intelligent to offer!

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