A former assistant who accused the New York government of Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment condemned him on Monday as a manipulative predator, as another woman said the governor had left her “shocked and embarrassed” after trying to kiss her at a wedding in 2019.
The woman, Anna Ruch, became the third woman to publicly accuse Cuomo of abusive behavior, and the first not to have worked as a government employee.
She told The New York Times late Monday that she met the governor for the first time at a wedding reception in September 2019. She said when he met her, Cuomo put her hand on her bare back, which she removed, and then put her hands on her face. and asked if he could kiss her.
“I was so confused and shocked and embarrassed,” Ruch, now 33, told the Times. “I turned my head away and had no words at that moment.”
A photograph of the incident shows Cuomo with his hands on Ruch’s visibly uncomfortable face.
An email with comments was sent to Ruch’s business. Her social media accounts were private. An email was also sent to Cuomo’s administration for comment.
The allegations of sexual harassment from the two women who worked for the Cuomo administration led New York’s independently elected attorney general to say she was continuing with an investigation.
Attorney General Letitia James received a letter on Monday from Cuomo’s office authorizing her to take responsibility for the probe after a weekend of quarrels over who would investigate.
The letter makes it possible for James, also a Democrat, to replace an external law firm to conduct an investigation with full force. The results will be revealed in a public report, according to the letter.
Cuomo has claimed that he has never touched or suggested anyone in an inappropriate way.
Former Assistant Charlotte Bennett on Monday rejected Cuomo’s apology in which he apologized for his behavior as “playful” and said in a statement that the governor has “refused to admit or take responsibility for his predatory behavior.”
Bennett, who claims that Cuomo asked her about her sex life and asked if she would be open to a relationship with an older man, wrote that “addicts – especially those with enormous amounts of power – are often recurring perpetrators who use manipulative tactics to reduce accusations. , blame victims, deny mistakes and escape consequences. ”
Cuomo’s support has fallen in the midst of double crises, including among other Democrats. The allegations of harassment come on the heels of accusations, he covered the actual number of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes.
It’s a pretty tumble for Cuomo, who had been widely praised for his leadership during the pandemic, especially the daily news conferences where he tried to inform and reassure the public with charts, graphs and a machismo he called “New York tough”.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and other elected officials have said that while Cuomo is under investigation, he should relinquish emergency powers he has held since the pandemic began, almost a year ago. The legislature has not taken any steps to recall Cuomo’s emergency forces – which will expire on April 30 – despite pressure from Republicans, some Democrats and the SUNY faculty association.
On Monday, Cuomo retained Manhattan disputes Elkan Abramowitz to represent him and his office in pieces related to nursing homes.
Abramowitz, who previously represented Cuomo’s office in a federal investigation into his 2014 decision to shut down a state anti-corruption commission, said he does not represent Cuomo in sexual harassment.
Bennett, 25, made his accusations in a story published Saturday in The New York Times. She said Cuomo told her he was alone and looking for a girlfriend.
Cuomo did not respond to Bennett’s statement Monday.
Former assistant Lindsey Boylan said Cuomo made inappropriate comments about her appearance, kissed her without her consent at the end of a meeting and once suggested that they play strip poker while on board his state-owned jet.
Boylan, who is fighting for the district president in Manhattan, first accused Cuomo in a tweet in December last year and prepared the accusations in a Medium post last week.
Cuomo has denied Boylan’s allegations as false. In a statement on Sunday, he admitted that he had teased people about their personal lives in an attempt to be “playful” and funny. He said he wanted to act as a mentor for Bennett.
I now understand 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 admit that some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent that someone felt it, I’m really sorry about that, he said.
His statement drew immediate backlash from critics who said he blamed the women for misinterpreting their statements.
In the letter approving James’ investigation, it was stated that all government employees have been commissioned to cooperate fully with the audit. Cuomo’s senior adviser, Beth Garvey, said she would facilitate interviews with witnesses and requests for documents from Cuomo’s office.
Ross Garber, a lawyer who has represented former Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina and John Rowland of Connecticut, said Cuomo “essentially handed over his reputation to an outsider and said, ‘Have it. Go and find what you want and publish a report to the public on what you have come to the conclusion that I have done or not done. ”
Bennett’s attorney, Debra Katz, said her client will cooperate fully with the Attorney General’s investigation.
“We are convinced that no disinterested investigator examining this evidence would assume the governor’s self-service of his behavior as mentorship or, in the worst case, unwanted flirtation,” Katz said. “He did not act as a mentor and his comments were not misunderstood by Bennett. He abused his power over her for sex. This is textbook sexual harassment. ”
Katz said the justice minister must investigate whether Cuomo exposed other women to a sexually hostile work environment, and whether anyone in the Cuomo administration made his behavior possible.
Initially, Cuomo seemed to want to maintain a level of control over the investigation. His office said it had asked a former federal judge, Barbara Jones, to conduct the probe. Then his office suggested that the Attorney General and the state’s Supreme Court judge work together to appoint an external lawyer.
Finally, on Sunday, Cuomo accepted James’ demand that she take control.