New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledged for the primary time Sunday that a few of his behavior with ladies “may have been insensitive or too personal,” and mentioned he would cooperate with a sexual harassment investigation led by the state’s lawyer common.
In an announcement launched amid mounting criticism from inside his personal get together, the Democrat maintained he had by no means inappropriately touched or propositioned anybody. But he mentioned he had teased folks about their private lives in an try to be “playful.”
“I now perceive that my interactions might have been insensitive or too private and that a few of my feedback, given my place, made others really feel in methods I by no means meant. I acknowledge a number of the issues I’ve mentioned have been misinterpreted as an undesirable flirtation. To the extent anybody felt that means, I’m actually sorry about that,“ he mentioned.
Cuomo, one in every of America’s most outstanding governors, is dealing with essentially the most critical problem of his decade in workplace following claims he sexually harassed no less than two ladies who labored for him. Democrats in New York and across the nation aren’t rallying to his aspect, leaving him more and more remoted from conventional allies.
His partial admission of wrongdoing got here after a day of wrangling over who ought to examine his office behavior.
By day’s finish, Cuomo acquiesced to calls for that Attorney General Letitia James management the inquiry.
James mentioned she anticipated to obtain a proper referral that might give her workplace subpoena energy and permit her to deputize an out of doors legislation agency for “a rigorous and independent investigation.”
“This is not a responsibility we take lightly,” mentioned James, a Democrat who has been, at occasions, allied with Cuomo however is independently elected and had emerged as a consensus selection to steer a probe.
Calls for an investigation mounted after a second former worker of Cuomo’s administration went public Saturday with harassment claims.
Charlotte Bennett, a low-level aide within the governor’s administration till November, instructed The New York Times Cuomo requested questions on her intercourse life, together with whether or not she ever had intercourse with older males, and made different feedback she interpreted as gauging her curiosity in an affair.
Her accusation got here days after one other former aide, Lindsey Boylan, a former financial growth adviser, elaborated on harassment allegations she first made in December. Boylan mentioned Cuomo subjected her to an undesirable kiss and feedback about her look.
Cuomo, 63, mentioned he had meant to be a mentor for Bennett, who’s 25. He has denied Boylan’s allegations.
Over a number of hours Sunday, James and different main get together officers rejected two of Cuomo’s proposals for the way an investigation would possibly proceed.
Under his first plan, a retired federal choose picked by Cuomo, Barbara Jones, would have reviewed his office behavior. In the second proposal, introduced Sunday morning in an try to appease legislative leaders, Cuomo requested James and the state’s chief appeals court docket choose, Janet DiFiore, to collectively appoint a lawyer to analyze and challenge a public report.
James rejected each plans, demanding a proper referral giving her workplace authority to subpoena paperwork and witness testimony.
Many of the most important names in New York politics lined up behind James.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, each Democrats, mentioned they wished the lawyer common to deal with the investigation. Republican leaders had, for days, known as on James to launch a probe. On Sunday, Republican state Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt known as on Cuomo to resign.
New York’s two U.S. senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, each mentioned an unbiased investigation was important.
“These allegations are serious and deeply concerning. As requested by Attorney General James, the matter should be referred to her office so that she can conduct a transparent, independent and thorough investigation with subpoena power,” Gillibrand mentioned.
Cuomo’s assertion that ladies had misinterpreted feedback that had been meant to be jokes was met with outrage from some folks, who mentioned he gave the impression to be blaming the ladies.
“Is it `playful’ to the touch one’s workers’ legs & kiss them on the lips in opposition to their will? Bc higher males than A Cuomo have been fired for that,“ tweeted former Fox News and NBC journalist Megyn Kelly, whose sexual harassment allegations in opposition to late Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes helped result in his ouster.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki mentioned President Joe Biden additionally supported an unbiased evaluation that “should move forward as quickly as possible.”
The furor comes amid a brand new spherical of criticism over Cuomo’s management model and actions his administration took to guard his status as a frontrunner within the coronavirus pandemic.
Cuomo received reward as a powerful hand throughout final spring’s disaster of rising case counts and overflowing morgues. His ebook, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” was revealed in October.
But in current weeks his administration was compelled to revise its rely of COVID-19 deaths in nursing houses following criticism that it had undercounted the fatalities to blunt accusations that a few of his administration’s insurance policies had made the scenario worse.
James fueled a few of that criticism by issuing a report saying the Cuomo administration had undercounted deaths.
Now, his help is eroding quicker.
“Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett’s detailed accounts of sexual harassment by Gov. Cuomo are extremely serious and painful to read,” U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez mentioned on Twitter Sunday. “There must be an independent investigation _ not one led by an individual selected by the Governor, but by the office of the Attorney General.”