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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo broke days of silence amid allegations of sexual harassment by three women, apologizing for any offence taken but saying he won’t resign and denying ever “touching anyone inappropriately.”
“I certainly never meant to offend anyone or cause anyone any pain. This is the last thing I would ever want to do. I ask the people of the state to wait for the facts from the Attorney General’s report before forming an opinion. Get the facts please,” Cuomo said Wednesday of AG Leticia James’ probe.
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He spoke at his first press briefing in a week as calls for his resignation swirl.
Two former aides have accused him of sexual harassment over the past week. A guest at a wedding who did not work for him also alleged inappropriate behavior with a photo of the governor holding her face as she said he attempted a kiss.
“I am not going to resign — I work for the people of the state of New York. They elected me and I’m going to serve the people of the state of New York, and by the way we have a full plate. We have Covid, we have recovery, we have rebuilding. We have a teetering New York City.”
“I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable… I feel terrible that these people felt uncomfortable, felt pain from the interactions and I’m embarrassed by it.”
Cuomo was asked whether he would step aside as the investigation takes place, but he suggested that he would be able to cooperate with the investigation and work on the state’s business. “I am going to cooperate with the attorney general’s investigation and do the budget,” he said.
In a Q&A, a reporter asked top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa, who appears with him at briefings, how she felt about the governor after the recent revelations. She also asked people to refrain from judgement until the investigation concludes and noted the administration’s progress on expanding protections for women in the state and naming women to key posts as commissioners or senior staff. “I don’t think this diminishes any of that,” she said.
DeRosa herself create a storm last month, re-exploding a scandal over how the state reported nursing home deaths. Comments she made at a meeting with lawmakers — that the administration said were taken out of context — were seen by some to imply a coverup. An assemblyman, Ron Kim, who was that and spoke about it, claimed to have been threatened by the governor. A spate of reports over Cuomo’s allegedly abusive, strong-arm tactics expanded to include sexual harassment.
Asked whether he himself has taken sexual harassment training that the state require all employers to give to employees. “The short answer is yes,” Cuomo said.
“To New Yorkers I am saying that I am embarrassed by what happened. I wear a pin that says ‘pride, integrity, performance.’ … So I’m embarrassed that someone felt that way in my administration. I am embarrassed and hurt and I apologize that someone that interacted with me felt that way.”
Cuomo also was asked by a reporter about a photo of himself with accuser, Anna Ruch, in which he is placing his hands around her face. The two were at a wedding reception in 2019.
“I understand the opinions and feelings of this,” Cuomo said. “And you are right. You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people. Women, men, children, etcetera. You can go and find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people, men and women. It is my usual and customary way of greeting.”
The Ruch incident emerged Monday. The week before, a former aide Lindsey Boylan in a blog post accused the governor of advances including an unwanted kiss and an invitation to play strip poker. And the New York Times published an interview with another former aide, Charlotte Bennett, 25, who said the governor had harassed her last spring at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. She left the administration in November.
Cuomo announced additional reopening moves today, raising the limits on indoor and outdoor social gatherings including for indoor and outdoor public spaces starting March 22.
Areas with capacity of more than 10,000 opened last week and he said smaller venues could also reopen on April 2 at 33% capacity or up to 100 people indoor and 200 people outdoors. That limit could be upped to respectively 150 and 500 people with Covid testing.
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