Cuomo issues apology for ‘insensitive’ comments, backs AG investigation
Amid allegations of sexual harassment, New York's governor says his words 'have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.'
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo apologized Sunday for past comments he says “have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation” amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment.
“At work, sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny,” Cuomo said in a statement issued in response to the claims. “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,” he continued. “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.”
Cuomo also said he “asked for an outside, independent review that looks at these allegations.” He’s reportedly agreed to cooperate with an investigation by the state attorney general’s office.
New York Attorney General Letitia James and the governor recently went back and forth about the probe, for which Cuomo wanted to appoint former federal judge Janet DiFiore to review the allegations. James, however, wanted more control of the investigation.
Before his statement on Sunday, Cuomo’s office announced it would ask James to “select a qualified private lawyer to do an independent review” of the allegations.
“This is not a responsibility we take lightly,” James said of the probe. “We will hire a law firm, deputize them as attorneys of our office and oversee a rigorous an independent investigation.”
The governor made the statement after a former aide, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett, said in an interview with The New York Times that Cuomo, 63, made inappropriate remarks about her sex life.
He denied the allegations, saying he “never made advances toward Ms. Bennett, nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate.”
Bennett is the second of Cuomo’s ex-aides who maintain some sexual harassment by the Democrat. In an essay last week on Medium, Lindsey Boylan, 36, a special adviser to Cuomo from 2015 to 2018 and a deputy secretary for economic development, wrote that she was “compelled to tell my story” — which reportedly included an unwanted kiss from him — “because no woman should feel forced to hide their experiences of workplace intimidation, harassment and humiliation.”
In his Sunday statement, Cuomo said: “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.”
Several of New York’s lawmakers — including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — all released statements supporting the investigation.
Additionally, President Joe Biden, via White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, said that he also supports an independent review of the allegations against Cuomo.