Denying that there was any physical foul play, the governor apologized for remarks that caused offense and discomfort.
ALBANY (CN) — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday that he will not be resigning, as claims of unwanted sexual advances mount against an earlier controversy over misleading data about Covid-deaths at nursing homes.
The three-term governor dug his heels down this morning during a 42-minute press conference. While denying any inappropriate physical contact, Cuomo doubled down on an earlier apology for gestures and remarks that he said had made multiple female staffers uncomfortable or offended.
“I never knew at the time I was making anyone feel uncomfortable,” the 63-year-old Democratic governor repeated twice.
Cuomo told reporters he would neither be resigning nor stepping aside from his duties to negotiate the state’s budget in the wake of the allegations and ongoing investigations.
“It was unintentional, and I truly and deeply apologize for it,” Cuomo said. “I feel awful about it, and frankly I am embarrassed by it, and that’s not easy for me to say.
“And I certainly never ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone, or cause anyone any pain,” he said. “That is the last thing I would ever want to do.”
When asked about a photo reported Sunday by The New York Times, showing Cuomo clutching a younger woman’s head with both hands during a 2019 wedding reception, the governor replied, “It is my usual and customary way of greeting.”
“You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people, women, men, children, et cetera,” the governor said.
“By the way it was my father’s way of greeting people,” he added, invoking the late Mario Cuomo, who served as the 52nd governor of New York for three terms from 1983 to 1994.
On Saturday, The New York Times quoted Charlotte Bennett, a low-level aide in Cuomo’s administration until November, as saying that the governor asked her inappropriate questions about her sex life, including whether she ever had sex with older men.
This came days after another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, a former deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to the governor, expounded on harassment allegations she first made in December.
In a public apology the following day, Cuomo denied he ever inappropriately touched or propositioned anyone.
He did, however, acknowledge that he had teased people in his office about their personal lives in an attempt to be “playful.”
By Sunday evening, Cuomo’s office granted a referral so that the New York attorney general could appoint a private law firm to carry out an investigation into several allegations of workplace misconduct.
Debra Katz, an attorney representing Bennett, said the press conference “was full of falsehoods and inaccurate information.”
“The governor repeatedly said he never touched anyone inappropriately. Ms. Ruch’s story makes clear that’s not accurate,” Katz said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “The governor repeatedly said he had no idea he made anyone uncomfortable. My client, Charlotte Bennett, reported his sexually harassing behavior immediately to his chief of staff and chief counsel.”
Katz said she expects the attorney general’s investigation to show that Cuomo administration officials, including the chief of staff and chief counsel, failed to act on Bennett’s complaints or to ensure that any corrective measures were taken.