ALBANY, NY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women in violation of state and federal laws as well as the executive chamber’s own written policies, according to a long-anticipated report Tuesday from the state Attorney General’s Office.
The bombshell report by a pair of attorneys selected by Attorney General Letitia James details cases of harassment by the governor that include unwanted groping, kissing, hugging and inappropriate comments directed toward current and former employees.
It also contends Cuomo and his senior staff had retaliated against at least one former employee, fostered a toxic workplace that enabled the harassment to occur and created a hostile work environment.
The report will undoubtedly lead to a new round of calls for the three-term governor to resign as well as pressure on the state Legislature to start an impeachment process.
Cuomo investigation led by private attorneys
The investigation was led by former Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim and Anne Clark, a private attorney who specializes in harassment cases.
James selected the attorneys after Cuomo himself had requested the probe under pressure after multiple women accused him of harassment.
In recent weeks, Cuomo had questioned the independence of the investigators. And his office has suggested James, a fellow Democrat, is interested in a run for governor herself, something James has not said publicly.
In particular, Cuomo has taken issue with Kim, who led multiple corruption investigations of the governor and his staff. That includes an investigation into the Moreland Commission, an anti-corruption panel that Cuomo abruptly disbanded. That investigation led to no charges against Cuomo.
Cuomo’s behavior around women was first subject to scrutiny in December, when former aide Lindsey Boylan posted a series of cryptic tweets claiming she had been harassed by the governor.
The tweets came as Cuomo’s national profile had risen to heights he had not previously reached, as his COVID-19 briefings at the peak of the pandemic attracted national attention.
In February, Boylan published an essay detailing his alleged harassing behavior, including a 2018 meeting in which he kissed her on the lips without consent as she left.
Boylan was followed by multiple other women who publicly shared similar stories of a governor who made inappropriate remarks and unwanted advances.
Among them was Charlotte Bennett, a 25-year-old former aide who said Cuomo asked repeated, invasive questions about her romantic live during one-on-one meetings last May and June, as the state was responding to COVID.
In media interviews, Bennett said the governor asked whether she practiced monogamy and if she had ever been with an older man. Cuomo remarked that he would be comfortable being with a woman in her 20s, she said.
Taken together, Bennett believed Cuomo was propositioning her for sex.
“Without explicitly saying it, he implied to me that I was old enough for him and he was lonely,” Bennett, a Westchester County native and Hamilton College graduate, said last week in an interview with CBS Evening News.
Cuomo has previously denied misbehavior
Cuomo has repeatedly denied any misbehavior, saying he never touched anyone inappropriately but also acknowledged that he can be playful and make jokes and sometimes ask his staff about their personal lives.
“I never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm. I spend most of my life at work and colleagues are often also personal friends,” he said in a statement Feb. 28.
On March 3, Cuomo sought to be more contrite.
“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,” he said in front of cameras at the state Capitol.
But he also vowed he had no intention of stepping down, saying, “I’m going to do the job the people of the state of New York elected me to do.”
Since then, however, Cuomo has again taken a more defiant tone.
On May 13, Cuomo denied harassing anyone, claiming that “making someone feel uncomfortable” doesn’t rise to that level.
“Harassment is not making someone feel uncomfortable,” Cuomo said. “If I make someone feel uncomfortable, that is not harassment. That is you feeling uncomfortable.”
Jon Campbell is the New York State Team editor for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @JonCampbellGAN.
Support local journalism
We cover the stories from the New York State Capitol and across New York that matter most to you and your family. Please consider supporting our efforts with a subscription to the New York publication nearest you.