Gov. Andrew Cuomo is embroiled in a major scandal as three women allege he sexually harassed them. Many are now calling for Cuomo to resign as an independent investigation gets underway.
Last month, executive assistant and health policy advisor to Cuomo, Charlotte Bennett, reportedly accused Cuomo of asking her questions about her sex life. The governor allegedly asked Bennett about her sexual activity with older men.
Just this week, Lindsey Boylan, a former aide to Cuomo, said he forcibly kissed her. Boylan previously said that the governor created a toxic environment while she was working for him.
A third woman, Anna Ruch, who served on Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, said that Cuomo made advances at her at a wedding in 2019. Specifically, she claims Cuomo put his hands on her face and asked for a kiss. A photo of Cuomo with his hands on Ruch’s face was later published.
The AmNews reached out to Cuomo’s office for comment on the allegations. A spokesperson referred the publication to previous statements released by Cuomo.
“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,” Cuomo said. “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.”
Cuomo added that he understands that his interactions may have been insensitive and never meant to offend anyone. He also said he never touched anyone inappropriately. The governor apologized to anyone he offended.
New York Attorney General Letitia James is investigating the allegations and plans on appointing a special deputy to conduct an independent investigation. While James did not speak to the AmNews for comment on the situation, her office released a statement after receiving a referral letter to investigate allegations against Cuomo.
“The executive chamber transmitted a referral letter to our office, providing us the authority to move forward with an independent investigation into allegations of sexual harassment claims made against Governor Cuomo,” James said. “This is not a responsibility we take lightly as allegations of sexual harassment should always be taken seriously. As the letter states, at the close of the review, the findings will be disclosed in a public report.”
Special Counsel and Senior Advisor to the Governor Beth Garvey said in a statement referred to the AmNews that Cuomo’s office asked James to select a private lawyer to do an independent review of the allegations.
“The independent lawyer will be legally designated as a Special Independent Deputy Attorney General and granted all powers provided under Section 63(8) of the Executive Law,” Garvey said. “As necessary, other lawyers from the appointed lawyer’s firm shall be similarly designated to assist in the review. The lawyer shall report publicly their findings. The Governor’s Office will voluntarily cooperate fully.”
Elisa Batista, campaign director for women’s advocacy group UltraViolet, said the women who have come forward are courageous. Her organization is demanding a third-party investigation into the allegations.
“The mounting allegations against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo are deeply disturbing,” Batista said. “They reveal a pattern of sexual harassment of young women that should not be tolerated in any workplace, let alone in the administration of the governor of New York. Cuomo’s actions are completely unacceptable and he must be held accountable.”
In an interview with the AmNews, civil rights attorney Norman Siegel said that in order to have transparency the law firm that James appoints to investigate Cuomo should be independent of the political process.
“In order to have a fair process, people have to let the process run its course,” Siegel said. “As long as it’s set up in a fair and independent manner, you wait to hear what the three women are going to testify to and what people in the governor’s office are going to testify to. If you don’t do that, it’s not the process we should be committed to. Wait until all of the facts come in. These are serious allegations. Fairness requires us to show some discipline and let the process run its course.”
As the fallout continues, over 25 state lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are supporting an independent investigation and even for Cuomo to resign amid the sexual harassment allegations.
On Tuesday, a rally was held outside of Cuomo’s office in Midtown led by several community and political organizations. Demonstrators called for Cuomo to resign immediately.
“Gov. Cuomo should be impeached,” Assemblyman Charles Barron stated. “He has done more than enough around the unspeakable, immoral, illegal covering up of the deaths in the nursing homes. He abused his power and disrespected Assemblymember Ron Kim and now he’s being accused of sexual harassment. That is more than enough to begin an impeachment process.”
State Sen. Zellnor Myrie said in a statement that he was “troubled” by the allegations against Cuomo and that workplaces should be free of harassment, especially in government.
“Women compose the majority of my office staff, and creating a safe, comfortable environment is of high importance,” Myrie said. “I’ve called for a truly independent investigation of these charges, and expect Attorney General Letitia James will follow the facts wherever they lead.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement that with the city and state recovering from COVID-19 pandemic, there should be transparency.
“New Yorkers have seen detailed, documented accounts of sexual harassment, multiple instances of intimidation, and the admitted withholding of information on the deaths of over 15,000 people,” de Blasio said. “Questions of this magnitude cannot hang over the heads of New Yorkers as we fight off a pandemic and economic crisis. It’s clear what must now take place.”