NEW YORK - New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke in public for the first time in days and addressed the sexual harassment allegations made against him. Cuomo has avoided public appearances as several Republicans and some fellow Democrats have called for him to resign.
"I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it," Cuomo said. "I feel awful about it and frankly I am embarrassed by it. And that's not easy to say but that's the truth."
The governor said he intends to cooperate with the independent investigation that Attorney General Letitia James has promised to launch.
One former aide, Charlotte Bennett, 25, said Cuomo quizzed her about her sex life and asked whether she would be open to a relationship with an older man. Over the weekend, Cuomo issued a statement saying he was trying to be "playful." Bennett rejected that attempted apology.
After Wednesday's statement, Bennett's lawyer, Debra Katz, went even further, calling Cuomo's news conference filled with "falsehoods and inaccurate information."
Bennett had reported his behavior to her boss and one of Cuomo's lawyers, Katz said, so the governor's claim that he didn't know he had made anyone uncomfortable was disingenuous.
"We are confident that they made him aware of her complaint and we fully expect that the attorney general's investigation will demonstrate that Cuomo administration officials failed to act on Ms. Bennett's serious allegations or to ensure that corrective measures were taken, in violation of their legal requirements," Katz said.
Lindsey Boylan, a former aide who is running for Manhattan borough president, said Cuomo inappropriately commented on her looks, kissed her without her consent, and once suggested they play strip poker while aboard his state-owned jet. Boylan on Wednesday criticized Cuomo's latest statement about his actions.
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"How can New Yorkers trust you @NYGovCuomo to lead our state if you 'don't know' when you've been inappropriate with your own staff?" she tweeted.
Anna Ruch, who never worked for Cuomo, told The New York Times that she met the governor at a wedding in 2019 where he cupped her face with his hands and asked if he could kiss her.
"I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable," Cuomo said on Wednesday. "And I certainly never ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain that is the last thing I would ever want to do."
When asked about the calls from some elected officials to resign, the governor said he won't step down because "the people" elected him to do a job.
"I wasn't elected by politicians, I was elected by the people of the state of New York," Cuomo said. "I'm not going to resign."
He also asked New Yorkers to withhold judgment until all the facts come out.
With The Associated Press
Cuomo's Full Statement
I want to address the recent allegations that have been made against me. As you probably know, the attorney general is doing an independent review and I will fully cooperate with that review. Now, the lawyers say I shouldn't say anything when you have a pending review until that review is over. I understand that, I'm a lawyer too, but I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this.
First, I fully support a woman's right to come forward and I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it and frankly, I'm embarrassed by it, and that's not easy to say but that's the truth. But this is what I want you to know, and I want you to know this from me directly — I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable. I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable. I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do.
I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general's report before forming an opinion. Get the facts please before forming an opinion and the attorney general is doing that review. I will fully cooperate with it and then you will have the facts and make a decision when you know the facts.
I also want you to know that I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation for me as well as other people, and I've learned an important lesson. I'm sorry. I'm sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone. I never intended it and I will be the better for this experience. Thank you.