New York Governor Andrew Cuomo choked up on Wednesday as he apologized over sexual harassment claims but insisted he never touched 'anyone' and vow
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo choked up on Wednesday as he apologized over sexual harassment claims but insisted he never touched ‘anyone’ and vowed to fully cooperate with the Attorney General’s investigation in to him.
The governor held a 40-minute briefing, hours after being slammed by Mayor de Blasio for hiding from the public and media amid the ongoing pandemic.
He had not been seen publicly since February 24 and hadn’t taken journalists’ questions since February 22 – two days before the sexual harassment scandal erupted.
Three women have alleged misconduct, including two former aides who both say he made inappropriate remarks towards them that were sexual.
One of those aides also claims he forcibly kissed her on the mouth. A third woman came forward after them claiming that he’d asked to kiss her at a wedding. A photo of them at the wedding emerged in which he is clasping her face.
On Wednesday afternoon, Cuomo started by briefing the media via Zoom on the state’s COVID progress and making several announcements about reopening the state.
He then, before taking questions, addressed the scandal, refused to resign despite calls for him to do so, and urged the public to wait for the findings of the investigation.
He also defended his touchy-feeling ways, saying hugging and kissing were his ‘customary way of greeting people’ and that it’s what his father, the late governor Mario Cuomo, also did.
‘As you know the Attorney General is doing an independent review. I will fully cooperate with that review. The lawyers say I shouldn’t say anything when you have a pending review – I understand that I am a lawyer too.
‘But, I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this. First, I fully support a woman’s right to come forward and I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that 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. That’s not easy to say. That’s the truth. This is what I want you to know and I want you to know this from me directly: I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never touched anyone inappropriately,’ he said.
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Cuomo on Wednesday at his first briefing since February 22. He has not been seen in public since February 24 amid growing calls for him to resign over sexual harassment claims
Asked if he would resign, he said resolutely: ‘I’m not going to resign.
‘I work for the people of New York. I’m going to serve them. We have a full plate – we have COVID, we have rebuilding, a teetering New York City… so no.
‘I am going to do he job the people of the state elected me to do.’
He went on to vow not to hug or kiss people anymore, saying: ‘I do not believe I have ever done anything in my public career that I am ashamed of. I didn’t know I was making her uncomfortable at the time, I feel badly that I did.
‘Sensitivities have changed and behavior has changed. I get it and I’m going to learn from it.’
When asked about the photo that emerged of him clasping one of the accuser’s faces, he said: ‘You will find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people – women, men children.
‘You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people – men and women.
‘It is my usual and customary way of greeting. You know that because you’ve watched me. 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 was at a event in Queens the other day. I hugged the pastors who were there… but that doesn’t matter.
‘What matters is if anybody was offended by it. If they were offended by it, I apologize. If they were hurt, I apologize. If they felt pain from it, I apologize.’
Two former aides – Charlotte Bennett and Lindsay Boylan – say Cuomo sexually harassed them when they were working for him.
Charlotte Bennett (left), 25, accused Cuomo of sexually harassing her during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in his Albany office, including quizzing her about dating older men. Lindsey Boylan (right) accused him of attempting to kiss her on the mouth in 2018
A third woman has accused Governor Cuomo of unwanted touching and sexual attention, saying he placed his hands on her face and asked if he could kiss her at her friend’s wedding. A friend took a series of pictures of the incident as it occurred. https://t.co/bgvzBK4vK0 pic.twitter.com/hXvgTvSntQ
— Evan Hill (@evanchill) March 2, 2021
Anna Ruch, now 33, met Andrew Cuomo at her friends’ wedding in September 2019. He was photographed cupping her face. She says he asked if he could kiss her
On Monday night, a third woman – Anna Ruch, now 33, who worked at the Obama White House and met Cuomo at a wedding in September 2019 – said he asked if he could kiss her.
CUOMO’S STATEMENT ON SEX HARASSMENT SCANDAL IN FULL
I want to address the recent allegations that have been made against me.
As you know the Attorney General is doing an independent review. I will fully cooperate with that review. The lawyers say I shouldn’t say anything when you have a pending review. I understand that. I am a lawyer too.
But, I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this. First, I fully support a woman’s right to come forward and I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that 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. That’s not easy to say. That’s the truth. This is what I want you to know and I want you to know this from me directly: I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never touched anyone inappropriately.
I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feeling uncomfortable. I never knew at the time I was making anyone feel uncomfortable. I certainly never ever meant to offend anyone or cause anyone any pain.
That is the last thing I would ever do that. I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the Attorney General’s report before forming an opinion. Get the facts please before forming an opinion. I will fully cooperate with it.Then you will have the facts Make a decision when you have the facts
I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation. I’ve learned an important lesson. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone I never intended it.
I will be the better for this experience.
She is who was pictured with his hands clasping her face.
Before today, Cuomo, 63, had not been seen at a public event on February 24.
He was opening a vaccination site in the Bronx but did not take any questions from the media. The last time he accepted journalists’ questions was two days earlier, on February 22, which was his last televised COVID-briefing.
He made one virtual appearance – on February 25 – at the virtual governors’ meeting where he welcomed President Joe Biden, but he had not been seen since then. Emails from his office indicate that he has been in Albany throughout.
On Wednesday, he held a COVID briefing via Zoom, where journalists could dial in their questions.
It is a marked difference from the forward-facing Cuomo the country became accustomed to throughout the pandemic, and which won him an Emmy.
On Wednesday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio criticized him for shying away from the spotlight again.
‘We need a full investigation…we need the full truth and we need it quickly. In the meantime, if the governor is to remain in office, he has to govern. He has to answer questions every day and address the issues.
‘There’s so much going on with this pandemic we have to continue to do this work to protect people’s lives and obviously, part of that is responding to the concerns of the public expressed through the media.
‘That’s the bottom line right now. If he can’t do that, if he can’t govern – of course, step aside and let someone else do it.
‘Right now, what we need is clear answers and progress. We need local control.
‘Especially when we see the dysfunction in Albany.’
A growing number of Democratic leaders have called on Cuomo to resign following the sexual harassment allegations, including Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, a New York representative who on Monday became the first Democrat in DC to call for him to stand down.
A journalist has also come forward to say she quit her job in local news because she was bullied by Cuomo’s team, and a video resurfaced over the weekend of thew governor repeatedly telling a different journalist to ‘eat the whole sausage’ at the New York State Fair in 2016.
A billboard in Albany, the New York state capital, was put up on Tuesday demanding the governor quit
That journalist, Bethany Cefalu, said on Monday that she never felt pressured nor harassed, nor did she think Cuomo was inappropriate.
On Monday night, Melissa DeRosa – one of his most senior aides – hit back at photos obtained by DailyMail.com which show the pair at dinner, not long after she got married.
They appear close in the photos and Cuomo’s hand is placed between them on a booth.
DeRosa said in a statement to DailyMail.com: ‘There have been misogynistic rumors in Albany and in government for years but I never thought I’d have to respond to them in the press.
‘The Governor and I have never had an intimate relationship.
‘The Governor and I have been close friends and colleagues for over ten years – we’ve had countless meals together and suggestions or innuendo around that is inappropriate, offensive and wrong.’
The women who have made allegations against him on banded together in solidarity on Monday night.
Attorney General Letitia James is appointing a special counsel to investigate the claims after shutting down Cuomo’s suggestion that he could appoint his own.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the claims were ‘credible’ and ‘serious’ earlier this week.