An attorney for Andrew Cuomo accuser Charlotte Bennett on Wednesday slammed the embattled New York governor’s apology for conduct Bennett and two other accusers say amounted to sexual harassment.
Bennett, 25, said Cuomo asked about her sex life and whether she’d be open to a relationship with an older man. Accuser Lindsey Boylan said Cuomo kissed her without her consent and suggested playing strip poker on a state-owned jet.
Cuomo denied both Boylan’s and Bennett’s accusations.
Accuser Anna Ruch said Cuomo put his hands on her face and asked if he could kiss her.
Cuomo spoke about the accusations during a Wednesday news conference called to address the coronavirus pandemic. Cuomo also said he would “fully cooperate” with an investigation into his conduct by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
The governor acknowledged that it was unwise to speak publicly given the “pending review” but he said he wanted “New Yorkers to hear from [him] directly on this.”
“I fully support a woman’s right to come forward, and I think it should be encouraged in every way,” the governor said. “I now understand I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional, and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it and, frankly, I am embarrassed by it, and that’s not easy to say, but that’s the truth.”
“I never touched anyone inappropriately,” he said. “I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable . . . and I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do.”
He asked people to wait for the attorney general’s investigation “before forming an opinion.”
“And then you will have the facts,” he said. “I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation for me as well as other people, and I’ve learned an important lesson: I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone; I never intended it; and I will be the better for this experience.”
Reacting to a question by WCBS-TV’s Marcia Kramer about pictures of Cuomo “touching the face of Anna Ruch.”
“I’ve also seen circulated pictures of you touching the faces of people all over the state, young and old,” Kramer asked, “and I wonder what you make of those pictures.”
Cuomo said he fully supported a woman’s right to come forward.
“You can find — uh — hundreds of pictures of me, uh, making the same gesture with hundreds of people — women, men, children, etc.” Cuomo said. “Uh — you can go find hundreds of pictures of me — uh — kissing people — uh — men, women — it is my usual and customary way of greeting. You know that because you’ve watched me for — uh — let’s just say — um, more years than we care to remember. By the way — it was my father’s way of greeting people — you’re the governor of the state — you want people to feel comfortable, you want to reach out to them.”
“I do it, I kiss and hug, uh, legislators, I was at an event in Queens the other day — uh, I hugged the pastors and the — uh — assembly members who were there, and that is my way to do that,” Cuomo said while seated in the same room he normally uses to tell people to practice social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter my intent. Uh, what it matters is, if anybody was offended by it. And, I could intend no offense, but if they were offended by it, then it was wrong. And if they were offended by it, I apologize. And if they were hurt by it, I apologize. And, if they felt pain from it, I apologize. I apologize. I did not intend it. I didn’t mean it that way. But if that’s how they felt, that’s all that matters, and I apologize.”
Bennett’s attorney rubbished the governor’s apology and further reacted to reports that several Cuomo staffers have resigned in the wake of the accusations.
“The Governor’s press conference was full of falsehoods and inaccurate information, and New Yorkers deserve better,” said attorney Debra Katz in a statement provided to Law&Crime. “The Governor repeatedly said he never touched anyone inappropriately. Ms. Ruch’s story makes clear that’s not accurate.”
“The Governor repeatedly said he had no idea he made anyone uncomfortable,” the statement continues. “My client, Charlotte Bennett, reported his sexually harassing behavior immediately to his Chief of Staff and Chief Counsel. We are confident that they made him aware of her complaint and we fully expect that the Attorney General’s investigation will demonstrate that Cuomo administration officials failed to act on Ms. Bennett’s serious allegations or to ensure that corrective measures were taken, in violation of their legal requirements.”
“Further, as reports are emerging of other staff resigning from the Governor’s office in the wake of his scandals, the people charged with helping him execute the duties of his office are once again bearing the consequences of his actions. If they know anything or have experienced this themselves, we call on them to come forward and report this misconduct,” the statement concluded.
Lindsey Boylan’s reaction was more truncated.
“How can New Yorkers trust you @NYGovCuomo to lead our state if you ‘don’t know’ when you’ve been inappropriate with your own staff?” she tweeted.
Watch the full press conference below. The video is set to begin with Cuomo’s comments addressing photos of him kissing people; however, you can scroll back to hear more:
[image via screen capture from the governor’s press conference]
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