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Cuomo formally refers alleged sex harassment case to state AG

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One of the women who said she was sexually harassed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is rejecting his attempt to apologize for his behavior and excuse it as an attempt to be "playful."

Video Transcript

SANDRA BOOKMAN: Now to the sexual harassment scandal involving New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The man who for most of the past year, had daily televised news briefings, today spent another day out of the public eye. Two former staffers accusing the governor of harassment. And this afternoon, the state attorney general officially receiving a referral letter from the governor to move forward with that investigation. She will have subpoena power. Eyewitness News political reporter Dave Evans is live this evening outside the governor's office in midtown Manhattan. Dave.

DAVE EVANS: Sandra, as you mentioned, the last time that we actually saw Governor Cuomo in public was last Wednesday morning at York College. And we usually see him at least three times a week, sometimes more. It's especially odd not to see him today, because as you mentioned, this is the one-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 positive case in New York City. Today the attorney general moved forward on her independent investigation into not one, but two separate sex harassment allegations against Governor Cuomo.

ROB ORTT: The right thing is for these investigations to go forward, to get to the truth. And I believe the right thing is for the governor to step aside.

DAVE EVANS: Yesterday, Governor Cuomo issued an apology, saying "at work sometimes I think I'm being playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I do, on occasion, tease people in what I think is a good natured way. I do it in public and in private. Some of the things I have said may have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that."

BILL DE BLASIO: That's not an apology. He seemed to be saying, oh, I was just kidding around. You know, sexual harassment is not funny.

DAVE EVANS: Today the mayor blasted Governor Cuomo, calling his conversation with Charlotte Bennett, a former aide, completely inappropriate.

BILL DE BLASIO: It's serious. And it has to be taken seriously, and he just clearly was letting himself off the hook for something that for the women involved, sounded pretty terrifying.

DAVE EVANS: Today Bennett said, "it took the governor 24 hours and significant backlash to allow for a truly independent investigation. These are not the actions of someone who simply feels misunderstood; they are the actions of an individual who wields his power to avoid justice." Last week, another former aide, Lindsay Boylan, wrote an essay alleging harassment by Cuomo. Then over the weekend, "The New York Times" broke the Bennett story.

JESSE MCKINLEY: She alleges that the governor asked her direct questions about her sex life, whether or not she was monogamous in her relationships, whether or not she had ever slept with an older man.

DAVE EVANS: Republicans are saying it's impossible for Cuomo to face a federal probe on COVID nursing home deaths, also a sex harassment investigation, and guide New York through the end of the pandemic. But most Democrats, including even the president, are saying investigate and then make a decision.

MICHAEL GIANARIS: There is now an investigation that the attorney general is going to be heading up. And I think we'll all let her do her work and don't want to interfere with it, and see what she's able to substantiate.

DAVE EVANS: And also, the White House is now weighing in on this controversy. White House press Secretary Jen Psaki today said that in these kinds of cases, women need to be treated with respect and dignity. And she added, the president believes there should be a full investigation.