Cuomo: Sorry Playful Jokes Misinterpreted as Flirting in New York
Lawmakers in the Hudson Valley and across the state are calling for investigations into allegations of sexual harassment made against Gov. Cuomo.
For the second time in less than a week, a former aide has accused Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment. 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett from Westchester County alleges Cuomo asked her personal questions about her relationships and if she'd ever been intimate with older men.
Cuomo denied he made advances towards Bennet but did not deny asking Bennett about her sex life, adding he was trying to be a mentor to Bennet.
Below is 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."
Last week, another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, accused Cuomo of sexual misconduct. In a statement, Cuomo's office called her claims "quite simply false." Boylan, who previously accused the governor of misconduct, claimed Cuomo kissed her without consent, asked her to play strip poker on a private jet and much more.
"This is a disturbing pattern of behavior," Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro wrote on social media after learning of Bennet's allegations against Cuomo. "We start by believing these courageous women. There must be a serious independent investigation, victims heard, truth sought and justice served. If true, the Governor is not fit to serve, must resign or be removed from office."
Cuomo has agreed to let New York Attorney General Letitia James appoint an outside investigator into the scandal.
"The referral would be made solely to the attorney general's office. 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," James stated. “We expect to receive a 63(8) referral with subpoena power to investigate allegations of sexual harassment against the governor, in line with our demands and New York state law