Andrew Cuomo sexual harassment accuser speaks as investigation hastens
One of the two women who accused New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment broke his “predatory behavior” on Monday and urged other women to come forward if they have similar complaints about him.
Charlotte Bennett’s motion came when New York Attorney General Letitia James said Cuomo’s office had formally requested an independent investigation into the allegations of Bennett and another former aide, Lindsey Boylan.
“Anyone who needs to hear that knows I have room for you too,” Bennett said in a statement. “To the governor’s survivors, I’m here. Lindsey is here.”
“You don’t have to say a single word. But if you choose to tell your truth, we’ll be with you. I promise.”
Bennett has hired a senior workplace discrimination attorney, Debra Katz, who said in her own statement that Bennett “will fully cooperate with the Attorney General’s investigation”.
“We are confident that no uninterested investigator reviewing this evidence would accept the governor’s selfish characterization of his behavior as mentoring or, in the worst case, undesirable flirtation,” said Katz. “He was not a mentor and his remarks were not misunderstood by Mrs. Bennett.”
“He abused his power over her for sex. This is sexual harassment textbook.”
James said in a statement of her authority over the investigation, “This is not a responsibility we take lightly as allegations of sexual harassment should always be taken seriously.”
Bennett said in her statement that Cuomo “refused to acknowledge his predatory behavior or accept responsibility for it”.
“As we know, perpetrators – especially those of tremendous power – are often repeat offenders who use manipulative tactics to reduce allegations, blame victims, deny wrongdoing, and escape consequences,” she said.
Bennett noted that “it took the governor 24 hours and significant backlash to allow a truly independent investigation” after she published her allegations in an article in the New York Times on Saturday.
“These are not the actions of someone who simply feels misunderstood. They are the actions of an individual who uses his power to avoid justice,” said Bennett.
Cuomo first suggested over the weekend that Bennett and Boylan’s allegations be investigated by a former federal judge who had previously worked with the governor’s top advisor.
Cuomo then turned and his office suggested that James and Judith Kaye, Judith, who heads the state’s Supreme Court, jointly oversee the investigation.
James refused to share the oversight. And the governor’s office, dealing with a growing political backlash to both the allegations and his machinations to control the investigation, agreed to ask the attorney general to conduct the investigation.
Bennett said, as she presented her report, “I fully expected to be attacked by those who reflexively question the honesty or motivation of those who report sexual harassment. Those voices do not deter me.”
She also said, “Moving forward was an excruciating decision. I decided to share my story because I believed that I would be supported and believed. Often times, this is not the case.”
“Sharing my experience was only possible because previous survivors stood up and told their stories. I hope my story will make other survivors feel like they can stand in their truth.”
CNBC has approached Cuomo’s office for comment.
A referral letter from Cuomo’s office to James on Monday approved her request that a private attorney or attorney general investigate Bennett and Boylan’s claims.
The letter from Cuomo’s special adviser Beth Garvey stated that the results of this investigation “will be published in a public report.”
The letter also states that “due to the nature of this review,” the governor’s office will not approve or send weekly reports that would normally be expected under state law authorizing the attorney general to represent outside attorneys on such an investigation .
“All New York State employees have been directed to cooperate fully with this review,” Garvey wrote in the letter published by James.
“I will act as the witness interview or drafting point of contact for the Executive Chamber and put you in touch with an appropriate attorney at another agency or establishment for any documents or witnesses required for the review,” Garvey wrote.
Bennett, 25, told the Times in an article published Saturday that 63-year-old Cuomo had asked her questions, including whether she “had ever been with an older man,” whether she was monogamous in her relationships and other personal questions they asked make her feel uncomfortable.
Boylan has said that Cuomo kissed her once without her consent and jokingly suggested playing strip poker on an official flight.
Cuomo has denied the 36-year-old Boylan’s claims.
However, in a statement released on Saturday, the governor did not deny Bennett’s claims about what he had said.
“I never intended to offend or harm anyone. I spend most of my life at work and colleagues are often personal friends,” said Cuomo on the day.
“At work I sometimes think I’m playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I occasionally tease people in ways I think are good-natured,” said the governor.
“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal, and that because of my position, some of my comments made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge that some of the things I have said may be considered undesirable Flirting was misunderstood As far as someone felt this way, I’m really sorry. “
Cuomo also said, “To be clear, I’ve never touched anyone inappropriately or suggested anyone, and I never wanted anyone to feel uncomfortable, but these are allegations the New Yorkers deserve answers to.”