The governor of New York maintains he did nothing wrong and has refused to resign following findings of an investigation into sexual harassment.
“I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances. I am 63 years old. I’ve lived my entire adult life in public view. That is just not who I am, and that’s not who I have ever been,” Mr Cuomo said.
“The facts are much different than what has been portrayed,” he added.
In a live-streamed response to the probe by Attorney General Letitia James, Mr Cuomo directly addressed one of his accusers who had been a survivor of sexual assault.
Mr Cuomo said his comments to Charlotte Bennet were an attempt to help her process her previous trauma as a way of making up for his inability to help one of his family members who was a victim of sexual assault.
“I was trying to make sure she was working her way through it the best she could,” he said.
The incendiary report released by Ms James concluded that Mr Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women in violation of state and federal laws.
While the report did not conclude whether the conduct should be subject to criminal prosecution, Mr Cuomo said he welcomes the opportunity to face some of the allegations in court.
In one instance outlined in the report, Mr Cuomo even sexually harassed the doctor who gave him a Covid test live on air by saying: “Nice to see you, doctor, you make that gown look good.”
In another, an unidentified executive assistant said Mr Cuomo grabbed her breast under her blouse and grabbed her bottom on multiple occasions, while an unidentified state employee said he also grabbed her bottom while taking a selfie.
A previously unreported complaint from Virginia Limmiatis said Mr Cuomo ran “two fingers across her chest” while reading the name “National Grid” written across the front of her shirt. Leaning in with his face close to her cheek, Mr Cuomo brushed his hand below her collarbone after reportedly saying: “I’m going to say I see a spider on your shoulder.”
At a press conference to announce the conclusion of the five-month probe, Attorney General Letitia James said the harassment of multiple women created a hostile work environment and violated state and federal laws.
She said the women, many of whom were young, experienced unwanted groping, kisses, hugging, and inappropriate comments, and that they were not isolated incidents but were rather part of a pattern.
“Specifically, the investigation found that Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed current and former New York State employees by engaging in unwelcome and nonconsensual touching and making numerous offensive comments of a suggestive sexual nature, that created a hostile work environment for women,” she said.
Ms James said the findings were based on interviews with 179 people and a review of 74,000 pieces of evidence that painted a “deeply disturbing yet clear picture”.
The 165-page report also found that Mr Cuomo and senior staff retaliated against a former employee who accused him of wrongdoing.
To coincide with his response, the governor released a report of his own by his attorney to address each allegation made in Ms James’ probe.
Mr Cuomo said everyday interactions were being “weaponised” to score political points, seek publicity and personal gain.
“The New York Times published a front-page picture of me touching a woman’s face at a wedding and then kissing her on the cheek. That is not front-page news. I’ve been making the same gesture in public all my life. I actually learned it from my mother and from my father,” he said. “It is meant to convey warmth, nothing more.”
Anticipating an expected claim for damages from one of his accusers, Mr Cuomo said her allegations would be decided in a court of law and not in a trial by newspaper.
“I welcome the opportunity for a full and fair review before a judge and jury because this just did not happen," he said.
That defence was laid out by his attorney, Rita M Glavin, in the 85-page counter-report released on Tuesday under the section, “The Governor never groped Ms X”.
“The contemporaneous documentary evidence – which the Attorney General’s investigators apparently did not bother to review or consider – does not support this allegation.
Contrary to Ms X’s interview with the Times Union that she was only at the Mansion a short time when she was groped and then left the Mansion, Ms X was at the Mansion for almost three hours that day,” Ms Glavin wrote.
“It is notable that, soon after Lindsay Boylan first made allegations against the Governor in December 2020, Ms X told the governor that ‘no one believes her’,” Ms Glavin added.
The Democratic party was in lock-step that Mr Cuomo should resign following the release of the report. President Joe Biden, however, stopped short of saying whether or not he should be impeached if he refused to step aside.
“Let’s take one thing at a time here, I think he should resign, I understand that the State legislature may decide to impeach, I don’t know that for a fact,” Mr Biden said.
“I am sure there are some embraces that were totally innocent, but apparently the attorney general decided there were things that weren’t,” he added.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement that it is “beyond clear” the governor is no longer fit to hold office.
“He must resign, and if he continues to resist and attack the investigators who did their jobs, he should be impeached immediately,” he said.
New York’s two senators Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand, meanwhile, released a joint statement calling on Mr Cuomo to resign.
“As we have said before, the reported actions of the governor were profoundly disturbing, inappropriate and completely unacceptable,” they said. “No elected official is above the law. The people of New York deserve better leadership in the governor’s office”.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement the investigation was “comprehensive and independent” and commended the women who came forward to “speak their truth”.
“Recognising his love of New York and the respect for the office he holds, I call upon the governor to resign,” the statement said.
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