In his first public statement since a sexual harassment scandal involved his administration, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday he was ashamed of his actions and apologized, but said he would not resign.
During a press conference at the New York Capitol, seat of the state legislature, the governor attempted to quell outrage over the accusations of three women who had fallen on him – two state employees. accusing of sexual harassment, and another said she suffered from unwanted contact. and kisses at a wedding.
At the same time, a growing chorus of politicians from his Democratic Party called on him to step down from government. Cuomo, whose voice seemed choked at times, said he wanted New Yorkers “to know this straight from him.”
“Now I understand that I acted in a way that made others uncomfortable,” he said. “It wasn’t intentional, and I really and deeply apologize for it. I feel bad about it and frankly ashamed, and it’s not easy to say, but it’s the truth.”
“I have never touched anyone inappropriately,” said the governor.
“I didn’t know at the time that I was making someone uncomfortable,” he said. “And I certainly didn’t mean to offend or hurt or cause pain to anyone. It’s the last thing I want to do.”
In his comments and in response to a series of questions, Cuomo expressed regret – a rarity in a politician known for his sometimes tough and tough personality – saying that he “had learned from a situation that was incredibly difficult for him. me, as well as for others. “.
“I will be better because of this experience.”
Virtually no authority has come forward to defend Cuomo. Most Democrats have repeatedly called for an independent investigation into the allegations, which will now be analyzed by Secretary of State for Justice Letitia James.
Wednesday’s interview was the governor’s first statement in nine days, the longest he has gone without speaking to reporters since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Democrat, who is in his third term, had previously tried to explain that some of his comments and questions to employees were poorly constructed “and could have been too insensitive or too personal”.
“I recognize that some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as unwanted flirtation,” Cuomo said in a statement Sunday. “As far as anyone felt this, I really apologize.”
This statement seemed insufficient for many, including Charlotte Bennett, 25, a former advisor to Cuomo who told the New York Times that the governor asked her a series of sexual questions in a private meeting in June, especially if she was monogamous and if he had done so. never slept with older men.
Shaken and nervous, Bennett reported the incident to Cuomo’s chief of staff and was immediately transferred to another area of state government.
In the second (1st), she characterized the governor’s initial apology – and also a failed attempt to get a senior advisor’s partner to investigate – as a cowardly attempt to shirk responsibility.
“These are not the actions of someone who just feels misunderstood,” Bennett wrote. “These are the actions of an individual who uses his power to evade justice.”
Bennett was equally insensitive to the governor on Wednesday, who at one point said he was specifically apologizing to “the young woman who worked here,” but without saying her name.
“The governor’s press conference was full of lies and inaccurate information, and New Yorkers deserve more than that,” said Debra Katz, a harassment lawyer who represents Bennett.
Katz added that he hopes the Justice Secretary’s report “will demonstrate that Cuomo government officials failed to act on Bennett’s complaints or ensure corrective action was taken, including violation of their legal obligations “.
The whirlwind in Albany, the state capital, began last week with Lindsey Boylan, who served in the Cuomo government from 2015 to 2018.
She published an article detailing a series of troubling interactions with Cuomo, including one occasion where she said the governor suggested they “play strip poker.” Boylan also said the governor gave him an unsolicited kiss on the lips after a personal meeting with him at his office in Manhattan in 2018.
“When I got up to leave and walked over to the open door, he walked past me and kissed me on the mouth,” wrote Boylan, Manhattan neighborhood presidential candidate. “I was shocked, but I kept walking.”
The governor’s office vehemently rejected Boylan’s request.
Boylan also appeared to decline the governor’s apology on Wednesday, questioning his failure to recognize that his actions with women were inherently inadequate, whatever his intention.
In the second, Anna Ruch, 33, who served in the Obama administration, described unwanted behavior by the governor at a wedding, including touching her bare back, stroking her face, and giving her an unwanted kiss on the face.
Asked about the incident, Cuomo told the press conference that kissing and hugging was his “usual and usual way of greeting,” but that he apologized if it made Ruch difficult. at ease, reiterating that this was not his intention.
“If they were offended by this, then I was wrong,” Cuomo said. “If they were offended, I apologize. If they felt assaulted, I apologize. If they suffered from it, I apologize. I am sorry. I did not want. I didn’t mean to do this, but if that’s how they felt, that’s what matters, and I apologize. “
Letitia James, who is a Democrat, is expected to hire an outside law firm to conduct a civil investigation into the sexual harassment allegations made against the governor.
Cuomo is going through another crisis: reports that his government withheld important data on deaths in nursing homes linked to the coronavirus, to cover the full extent of the number of victims in these institutions.
Last month, in a private meeting with state deputies, the governor’s senior assistant, Melissa DeRosa, admitted she was hiding the data for fear that it would be used against Cuomo by the Ministry of Justice. Trump’s justice at the time.
The revelation prompted federal prosecutors and the FBI to open an investigation into the case.
There were possible signs of fatigue in Cuomo’s inner circle: Just before his announcement on Wednesday, Gareth Rhodes, a coronavirus adviser, announced he would be leaving the governor’s task force fighting the disease.
Rhodes, whose 2019 Manhattan wedding was where Cuomo allegedly harassed Ruch, said his decision was made last week.
The Politico website also reported that a press secretary, Will Burns, informed the governor’s office on Tuesday (2) that he would be stepping down from the state executive.