‘Being playful’: Cuomo says he ‘teased’ staff, agrees to independent inquiry

‘Being playful’: Cuomo says he ‘teased’ staff, agrees to independent inquiryMarch 1, 2021

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday offered his most detailed response yet to allegations that he sexually harassed two staffers, saying in a statement that his comments were intended to be “good natured” and that he was sorry those interactions had been “misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.”

Cuomo, facing increasing criticism of his fumbled attempts to hand the issue off to an independent investigator, admitted Sunday evening that he likes to “tease people” in the office.

“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended,” Cuomo said. “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.”

The remarks came as Cuomo’s office made its third proposal in less than 24 hours about how to conduct an independent investigation into his office after a second former staffer told The New York Times on Saturday night that Cuomo had harassed her.

Cuomo counsel Beth Garvey initially said Cuomo would appoint a former judge to look into the allegations. When that went over poorly, she pitched a new plan in which Attorney General Tish James and Chief Judge Janet DiFiore would jointly appoint an investigator. James rejected that idea, saying she wanted a referral that would give her office subpoena power in the matter.

On Sunday evening, Garvey said James alone will be asked to appoint a “qualified private lawyer” to handle the investigation. That lawyer and “other lawyers from the appointed lawyer’s firm” would be fully deputized to conduct the probe.

James said in a statement that she would move forward under the approach proposed by Garvey.

“This is not a responsibility we take lightly. We will hire a law firm, deputize them as attorneys of our office, and oversee a rigorous and independent investigation,” she said.

The developments on Sunday, in which New York’s three-term governor seemed to rapidly lose control of one of several scandals swirling around him, followed new allegations of sexual harassment from a former staffer who told The Times that the governor had repeatedly asked her intimate personal questions, which felt like “something out of a horror movie.“ Charlotte Bennett, 25, said Cuomo asked her about her romantic life and whether she “had ever been with an older man.”

Earlier last week, another former Cuomo staffer, Lindsey Boylan, detailed allegations of harassment from Cuomo in a personal essay posted on Medium. Among other things, Boylan said Cuomo kissed her on the lips and asked her to play strip poker during a plane ride.

The accusations come after Cuomo, who was seen as a national star for his public appearances earlier in the pandemic, faced increasing scrutiny in recent weeks about his handling of Covid-related deaths of nursing home residents.

James, the attorney general and a fellow Democrat, issued a report saying that the administration severely undercounted the number of deaths of nursing home residents, and the governor’s top aide said that the administration “froze” when asked for an accounting of those deaths. Those revelations led in turn to a series of stories critical of Cuomo’s aggressive leadership style.

James made clear earlier Sunday she would only launch an investigation “through an official referral from the governor’s office.”

“There must be a truly independent investigation to thoroughly review these troubling allegations against the governor, and I stand ready to oversee that investigation and make any appointments necessary,” she said.

In his statement Sunday evening, Cuomo conceded that he sometimes makes “jokes that I think are funny” while at work, believing he’s “being playful.”

“I do it in public and in private,” he said. “You have seen me do it at briefings hundreds of times. I have teased people about their personal lives, their relationships, about getting married or not getting married. I mean no offense and only attempt to add some levity and banter to what is a very serious business.”

He acknowledged his interactions, at times, had been “insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended.”

“To be clear, I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but these are allegations that New Yorkers deserve answers to,” Cuomo said. “That’s why I have asked for an outside, independent review that looks at these allegations.”

He added: “Separately, my office has heard anecdotally that some people have reached out to Ms. Bennett to express displeasure about her coming forward. My message to anyone doing that is you have misjudged what matters to me and my administration and you should stop now — period.”

Some were left unsatisfied by the apology.

“This is an absolutely disgusting, gaslighting response,” Erica Vladimer, a member of a Sexual Harassment Working Group in New York, said in a tweet. “No ownership of his actions, blaming his victims for ‘misinterpreting’ his ‘playfulness.’”

Read more

admin
Author: admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *