Andrew Cuomo offers apology after sexual harassment claims

New York governor says remarks could ‘have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation’

Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo: “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.” Photograph:  Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo: “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.” Photograph: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

 

New York governor Andrew Cuomo on Sunday sought to stem the political fallout over allegations of sexual harassment, acknowledging that he may have made inappropriate remarks that could “have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation” to a young female aide during private meetings last spring.

Mr Cuomo (63) said his comments – including those which emerged in an account from the aide, Charlotte Bennett – were an extension of life spent at work, where he sometimes “teased people about their personal lives and relationships”.

“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,” Mr Cuomo said in a statement. “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.”

The response from the governor seemed to reflect the gravity of Ms Bennett’s accusations, and those of another former aide last week, as well as the potential damage that they could cause to Mr Cuomo, a third-term Democrat.

Charlotte Bennett, one of two former aides to Andrew Cuomo to make accusations. Photograph: Elizabeth Frantz/The New York Times
Charlotte Bennett, one of two former aides to Andrew Cuomo to make accusations. Photograph: Elizabeth Frantz/The New York Times

Mr Cuomo, who emerged as a national leader during the pandemic, also repeated his calls for an independent investigation of his own behaviour, although the decision over who would oversee that inquiry has proved torturous.

His initial choice of a former federal judge to lead the investigation was met with criticism, as was his second suggestion that Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, be paired with Janet DiFiore, the chief judge on New York state’s highest court, to jointly pick someone to investigate the matter.

Ms James rejected that proposal.

Finally, late on Sunday, Mr Cuomo relented again, saying in a statement that he would grant subpoena power to whomever Ms James designated as the outside investigator, as Ms James had demanded.

In interviews with the New York Times last week, Ms Bennett said Mr Cuomo had asked her about elements of her sex life, including whether she practised monogamy and had ever slept with older men. She also recounted that Mr Cuomo told her he was open to dating women in their 20s.

She said she believed the governor was making sexual overtures toward her. – New York Times