ALBANY, N.Y. – Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday he will not cede to a growing number of calls for his resignation amid a sexual harassment scandal, pleading for residents to wait for an investigation to conclude before forming their opinions.
Cuomo, a Democrat, appeared in public for the first time since Feb. 24, offering his first on-camera comments since three women – including two former aides – gave detailed accusations of sexual harassment.
The embattled governor apologized for any actions that offended the women but said he didn’t know he was making them uncomfortable. He pledged to cooperate with an investigation led by Attorney General Letitia James’ office.
“I fully support a woman’s right to come forward, and I think it should be encouraged in every way,” Cuomo said during a news conference from the Capitol’s Red Room. “I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional, and I truly and deeply apologize for it.”
Cuomo made clear he has no intention of stepping down: “I am not going to resign.”
“I’m going to do the job the people of the state of New York elected me to do,” Cuomo said.
On Feb. 24, former economic development aide Lindsey Boylan posted an online essay accusing Cuomo of kissing her on the lips without consent in 2018 and making inappropriate comments, including a remark about wanting to play strip poker.
Since then, a second former aide, Charlotte Bennett, 25, told The New York Times that Cuomo repeatedly asked questions about her sex life and her experience as a sexual assault survivor, telling Bennett he would be open to a relationship with a woman in her 20s and asking whether she practiced monogamy.
And Monday, Anna Ruch, 33, told The New York Times that Cuomo placed his hand on her bare back at a wedding reception in 2019. When she removed his hand, she said, he grabbed her face with two hands and asked if he could kiss her loudly enough for a friend nearby to hear.
The sexual harassment scandal has left Cuomo in political peril – even some members of his own party called for his resignation.
Wednesday, two Democratic lawmakers added their names to the list: state Sen. James Skoufis of Orange County and Assemblyman Tom Abinanti of Westchester County, both of whom issued statements calling on the governor to step down.
“He must spare New York the continued shame of having a governor whose actions evidence his clear disrespect for women,” Abinanti said.
Cuomo issued a statement Sunday that contained a sentiment similar to the one he expressed Wednesday. Lawmakers criticized his apology for putting the onus on the accuser rather than the accused by saying he never intended to hurt anyone and apologizing if they were hurt.
At his news conference, Cuomo said he has learned “an important lesson.”
“I am sorry,” he said. “I am sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone. I never intended it, and I will be the better for this experience.”
More:Why allegations against Cuomo shine new light on long-standing harassment at state Capitol
More:Facing pressure, NY Gov. Cuomo cedes control of sexual harassment investigation
Jon Campbell is a New York state government reporter for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @JonCampbellGAN.
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