New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office is firing back against the latest allegations of improper conduct that have come from former staff members.
Karen Hinton, a former press aide to Cuomo, told The Washington Post. That in 2000 Cuomo – then Bill Clinton’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development – Cuomo invited her into a “dimly lit” hotel room and embraced her but she pulled away and left.
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“This did not happen,” Cuomo’s communications director Peter Ajemian said. “Karen Hinton is a known antagonist of the Governor’s who is attempting to take advantage of this moment to score cheap points with made up allegations from 21 years ago. All women have the right to come forward and tell their story — however, it’s also the responsibility of the press to consider self-motivation. This is reckless.”
After Cuomo’s office denied the allegations, Hinton told the Post that “attacking the accuser is the classic playbook of powerful men trying to protect themselves.” She said that Cuomo often flirted with women and that she believed it “wasn’t about having sex” so much as “about controlling the relationship.”
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Another former female staff member told the Post that there was “a systemic, intentional, hostile, toxic workplace environment that … perpetuates abusive treatment of people who don’t have power or resources.”
Another former Cuomo aide, Ana Liss, told The Wall Street Journal that the governor touched her inappropriately, kissed her hand, and asked questions about her private life. She said Cuomo made her feel like “just a skirt.”
Cuomo senior adviser Rich Azzopardi downplayed the allegations in a statement to Fox News.
“Reporters and photographers have covered the governor for 14 years watching him kiss men and women and posing for pictures,” he said. “At the public open house mansion reception there are hundreds of people and he poses for hundreds of pictures. That’s what people in politics do.”
This echoed Cuomo’s own statement on Wednesday, when he told reporters that kissing people was his “customary” greeting.
“You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people,” the governor said.
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Regarding the allegations of a hostile work environment, Azzopardi did not deny that Cuomo can be “direct” with workers.
“There is no secret these are tough jobs, and the work is demanding, but we have a top tier team with many employees who have been here for years, and many others who have left and returned. The Governor is direct with employees if their work is sub-par because the people of New York deserve nothing short of excellence,” he said.
Fox News’ Morgan Phillips contributed to this report.