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New York governor Andrew Cuomo has received calls for his resignation, following allegations of inappropriate conduct towards women.
The allegations come amid another recent scandal – that of unreported care home deaths from Covid-19 – that are rocking the New York governor’s formerly robust reputation.
As many as three women have now made allegations about Mr Cuomo’s conduct, including Anna Rauch, who alleged on Monday that Mr Cuomo asked if he could kiss her at a wedding in 2019.
The allegation came hours after New York attorney general Letitia James announced that Mr Cuomo had authorised an investigation into sexual harassment claims against him.
Ms Rauch told the New York Times that Mr Cuomo, who she had not previously met, put his hands on her bare lower back, before proceeding to ask for a kiss.
When she removed his hand, Mr Cuomo called her “aggressive”, the Times reported, and allegedly proceeded to place his hands on her face.
Mr Cuomo was alleged to have then asked “Can I kiss you?”
“I felt so uncomfortable and embarrassed when really he is the one who should have been embarrassed,” said Ms Rauch. “I turned my head away and didn’t have words in that moment.”
The claims followed that of Charlotte Bennett, a 25-year-old former health adviser to Mr Cuomo, who came forward on Saturday.
Ms Bennett claimed she encountered Mr Cuomo’s inappropriate behaviour on multiple occasions, including a conversation in June last year, when she was asked about her sexual experiences.
Mr Cuomo, according to the allegations in the Times, also remarked that he was open to being with women in their twenties and asked if Ms Bennett “had ever been with an older man”, whilst they were alone inside his office.
“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Ms Bennett said. “And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”
She was moved to another role away from Mr Cuomo, and said she did not call for an investigation last year because she “wanted to move on” from the encounters, and focus on her new job.
Mr Cuomo, responding to Ms Bennett’s claims on Saturday, told the Times that he had “never made advances toward Ms Bennett, nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate”.
In another statement on Sunday addressing the allegations made by Ms Bennett and another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, the governor acknowledged the claims made against him.
“I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that,” said the governor.
Ms Boylan made her own allegations of sexual harassment against Mr Cuomo last Wednesday, when she wrote in a post on Medium that the governor kissed her on the lips following a meeting in his office in 2018.
The unexpected encounter, which was among a number described by the 36 year-old, came almost a year after she was invited to play “strip poker” while travelling on his state jet.
Ms Boylan also described moments when Mr Cuomo went out out of his way to touch back or legs, and wrote: “It was an uncomfortable but all-too-familiar feeling: the struggle to be taken seriously by a powerful man who tied my worth to my body and my appearance.”
Mr Cuomo denied the allegations when they were first made in December, but has seen renewed calls for his removal or resignation in recent days.