New York Governor Andrew Cuomo apologized if comments he’s made to female aides were interpreted as “unwanted flirtation” but denied he ever touched or propositioned anyone.
In a statement issued Sunday evening, he asked for an outside, independent review of allegations by two women. Last week, a former aide Lindsey Boylan in a blog post accused the governor of advances including an unwanted kiss and an invitation to play strip poker. Yesterday, the New York Times published an interview with another former aide, Charlotte Bennett, 25, who said the governor had harassed her last spring at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. She left the administration in November.
“At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I do, on occasion, tease people in what I think is a good natured way,” Cuomo said. “I do it in public and in private. You have seen me do it at briefings hundreds of times. I have teased people about their personal lives, their relationships, about getting married or not getting married. I mean no offense and only attempt to add some levity and banter to what is a very serious business.” (See full statement below.)
New York Attorney General Letitia James said she expects to receive referral from the governor’s office to investigate the allegations, after some back and forth over who would oversee it. “This is not a responsibility we take lightly. We will hire a law firm, deputize them as attorneys of our office, and oversee a rigorous and independent investigation,” he office said.
Before the allegations of harassment emerged, Cuomo was already under fire for how his administration accounted for Covid-19 nursing home deaths, lack of disclosure to state lawmakers and bullying of critics.
Cuomo’s full statement:
“Questions have been raised about some of my past interactions with people in the office.
“I never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm. I spend most of my life at work and colleagues are often also personal friends.
“At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I do, on occasion, tease people in what I think is a good natured way. I do it in public and in private. You have seen me do it at briefings hundreds of times. I have teased people about their personal lives, their relationships, about getting married or not getting married. I mean no offense and only attempt to add some levity and banter to what is a very serious business.
“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.
“To be clear I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but these are allegations that New Yorkers deserve answers to.
“That’s why I have asked for an outside, independent review that looks at these allegations.
“Separately, my office has heard anecdotally that some people have reached out to Ms. Bennett to express displeasure about her coming forward. My message to anyone doing that is you have misjudged what matters to me and my administration and you should stop now – period.”
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.