New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is facing pressure from both sides of the aisle in the wake of sexual harassment allegations leveled against him by two former aides.
The Democrat has been the target of criticism in recent days from Republicans such as Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., as well as members of his own party at the state, local and federal level.
CUOMO SAYS HE WAS ‘BEING PLAYFUL,’ BUT ADMITS HE ‘MAY HAVE BEEN INSENSITIVE’ AMID SEXUAL HARASSMENT CLAIMS
“Gov. Cuomo is a criminal sexual predator and he must immediately resign,” Stefanik said in a statement in response to a New York Times report recounting allegations from former Cuomo adviser Charlotte Bennett.
According to the Times, Bennett said Cuomo asked her questions about her sex life, whether she was monogamous in her relationships and if she had ever had sex with older men.
The 25-year-old staffer described to the Times an incident that took place in June when she was “alone” with the 63-year-old governor in his State Capitol office. According to the report, he allegedly asked her if she thought age made a difference in romantic relationships and that he was open to having relationships with women in their 20s, which were noted by the Times as “comments she interpreted as clear overtures to a sexual relationship.”
In response to the allegations, Cuomo told the Times that he “never made advances toward Ms. Bennett nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate.”
Bennett’s allegations followed claims made by former Cuomo staffer Lindsey Boylan, who accused the governor of going “out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs,” kissing her while they were alone in his office, and suggesting that they “play strip poker” during a plane ride.
Cuomo’s office denied Boylan’s harassment claims, calling them “simply false” and insisting the strip poker comment “did not happen.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat who has often been at odds with Cuomo, called for an independent investigation of the governor after Boylan made her allegations.
“When a woman comes forward with these kinds of very specific allegations we have to take them seriously,” de Blasio said. “We need a full and independent investigation.”
On Sunday, following Bennett’s allegations, de Blasio issued a new statement, calling again for an investigation “led by someone fully independent of the governor.”
Democratic New York State Assemblyman Ron Kim shared de Blasio’s statement on Twitter, suggesting that the governor step down instead.
“Or … Cuomo can resign tonight,” Kim said. “Not tomorrow. Tonight.”
State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, another Democrat, also called for Cuomo’s resignation.
“As a New Yorker, a legislator, Chair of the Senate Ethics and Internal Governance Committee, and a survivor of sexual abuse, I am calling for Governor Cuomo to resign,” Biaggi tweeted Saturday.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., joined the calls for an investigation following Bennett’s claims. In an email to Fox News, Gillibrand called the allegations “serious and deeply concerning.”
On Sunday, Cuomo said in a statement that while at work he likes to “make jokes that I think are funny,” and has “teased people about their personal lives, their relationships, about getting married or not getting married.” The governor claimed that he did not mean to offend anyone, but recognized that he now sees “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.”
“I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation,” Cuomo continued. “To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.”
CUOMO ACQUIESCES TO DEMAND THAT ATTORNEY GENERAL LETITIA JAMES CONTROL INQUIRY
Cuomo agreed to be subjected to an investigation, but that led to controversy when he first appointed former federal Judge Barbara Jones to lead the probe. Jones was a former law firm colleague of former Cuomo aide Steve Cohen. Following criticism over this pick, Cuomo’s office announced the selection of Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore to work with New York Attorney General Letitia James to select an independent lawyer for the probe.
James rejected that plan.
“The state’s Executive Law clearly gives my office the authority to investigate this matter once the governor provides a referral,” James said in a statement. “While I have deep respect for Chief Judge DiFiore, I am the duly elected attorney general and it is my responsibility to carry out this task, per Executive Law.”
Cuomo eventually agreed to this.
“The governor’s office wants a thorough and independent review that is above reproach and beyond political interference,” Cuomo’s special counsel Beth Garvey said in a statement. “Therefore, the governor’s office has asked Attorney General Tish James to select a qualified private lawyer to do an independent review of allegations of sexual harassment.”
The harassment scandal only adds to the pressure Cuomo was already facing from his nursing home scandal. The governor was heavily criticized for his March 2020 decision to order nursing homes to admit residents who had tested positive for coronavirus, and his administration then withheld data regarding the number of nursing home residents who died from the pandemic.
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Cuomo insists that his directive – which was rescinded in May – did not cause the thousands of nursing home deaths that were eventually discovered, and that it was infected staff who brought the virus into the facilities. He also claims that he did not hide statistics from state lawmakers, but merely paused his office’s response to their inquiry in order to address a federal request. Cuomo has also stated that his office had informed state assembly members and senators of this.
State officials like Kim and Biaggi have disputed this, denying ever hearing this from the administration.
Fox News’ Edmund DeMarche, Joseph A. Wulfsohn and Dom Calicchio contributed to this report.