New York Governor Andrew Cuomo refused to step down Wednesday despite saying he apologized for three pains I caused three women claiming he sexually molested them.
An emotional cuomo also urged the public to on hold as New York Attorney General Letitia James oversees an investigation into allegations made by women, two of whom had previously worked as his aides.
“I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” said the embattled Democrat in his first public comments on the women’s allegations. “It was unintentional.”
“And I really apologize deeply for it,” he said. “I feel terrible about it.”
“I certainly never meant to offend, hurt, or cause pain,” said Cuomo. “This is the last thing I ever want to do.”
When asked directly whether he would resign midway through his third term, Cuomo said, “I will not resign.”
“I work for the people of New York,” he added. “I’m going to do the job that the people of the state chose me to do.”
A Cuomo prosecutor’s attorney, former adjutant Charlotte Bennett, later said the press conference was “full of falsehoods and inaccurate information.”
And another prosecutor, former Cuomo advisor Lindsey Boylan, tweeted, “How can New Yorkers trust you @NYGovCuomo to run our state when you” don’t know “when you have been inappropriately with your own employees?”
In addition to the sexual harassment scandal, Cuomo has received widespread criticism in recent weeks for covering up statistics on Covid deaths in nursing homes and bullying lawmakers and others from the state.
The governor said he would “fully cooperate with the harassment investigation by any attorney or attorneys that James will appoint”. These lawyers have the power to compel witnesses, including Cuomo, to answer their questions.
“I ask New Yorkers to wait for the attorney general’s facts before forming an opinion,” said Cuomo.
The 63-year-old governor was first accused last week by Boylan, 36, of kissing her without her consent and jokingly suggesting a game of strip poker on an official flight. Cuomo’s office strongly declined Boylan’s account at the time of posting on Medium.com.
Within days, 25-year-old Bennett told the New York Times that Cuomo had asked her questions last year, including whether she had “ever been with an older man,” whether she was monogamous in her relationships, and other personal questions, that made them feel uncomfortable.
Bennett said it was clear that Cuomo was seeking a sexual relationship with her.
On Monday, the Times published claims by another woman, Anna Ruch, who said that Cuomo, whom she did not know, put his hand on her bare lower back at a wedding. The governor then told her she was “aggressive” when, according to Ruch, he put his hands around her face.
Ruch, 33, who previously worked in the White House during the Obama administration, said Cuomo then asked if he could kiss her.
A photo of an uncomfortable looking Ruch with Cuomo on his face accompanied this article.
Bennett on Monday beat up Cuomo for his “predatory behavior” and asked other women to come forward if they had similar complaints about his behavior.
Ruch’s report increased the number of people who have urged Cuomo to resign, including New York Democratic MP Kathleen Rice.
On Wednesday, Cuomo spoke to reporters for the first time about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and related developments in New York. Then he turned to the sexual harassment scandal that had plagued him since last week.
“I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly,” he said. “Firstly, I fully support a woman’s right to speak up and I think that should be encouraged in every way.”
After apologizing for making the women uncomfortable, Cuomo said, “I’m embarrassed and it’s not easy to say, but that’s the truth.”
“I want you to know … I’ve never touched anyone inappropriately,” said the governor. “I never knew then that I was making someone feel uncomfortable.”
“I learned an important lesson from an incredibly difficult situation for myself and other people,” said Cuomo.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the pain I’ve caused someone. I never meant to, and I’ll be better for the experience.”
While interviewing reporters, Cuomo later said, “You can find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people, men, women. It’s my usual and customary way of greeting.”
“By the way, it was my father’s way of greeting people,” he said, referring to his late father, Mario Cuomo, who himself served as New York Governor.
Bennett’s attorney Debra Katz said after the press conference, “The governor’s press conference was full of falsehoods and inaccurate information, and New Yorkers deserve better.”
“The governor said repeatedly that he had not touched anyone inappropriately,” said Katz.
“Ms. Rauch’s story makes it clear that this is incorrect. The governor said repeatedly that he had no idea he was causing any discomfort. My client, Charlotte Bennett, immediately reported his sexually harassing behavior to his chief of staff and chief counsel.”
Katz also said: “We are confident that you have brought your complaint to his attention and we anticipate that the Attorney General’s investigation will show that Cuomo administration officials have failed to address the grave allegations made by Ms. Katz Bennett to respond or ensure corrective action has been taken. ” Violation of your legal requirements. “
Cuomo tried last weekend to see who would investigate Boylan’s and Bennett’s allegations, saying that a former federal judge would do the job.
The governor then sought the state chief magistrate to work with James to oversee the investigation.
Cuomo’s efforts sparked a political backlash, and James explicitly opposed the deal. The governor gave in quickly and his office said James would handle the probe himself.