Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, on Wednesday refused to resign, even though he said he was sorry for three women who claimed to have sexually harassed them.
An emotional Cuomo also asked the public to deliver verdict while New York Attorney General Letitia James oversees the investigation into the allegations by the women, two of whom previously worked as his assistants.
“I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” the disputed Democrat said in his first public comment on the women’s allegations. “It was unintentional.”
“And I really apologize for that,” he said. “I feel terrible about it.”
“I certainly never mean to offend or hurt anyone or hurt anyone,” Cuomo said. “This is the last thing I would ever want to do.”
Asked if he would retire in the middle of his third term, Cuomo said: “I’m not going to resign,”
“I work for the people of New York,” he added. “I’m going to do the job the people of the state chose me for.”
The governor also said he would “fully cooperate” with the investigation by a lawyer or attorneys who will appoint James. These attorneys will have the power to compel witnesses, including Cuomo, to answer their questions.
“I ask the people of New York to wait for the facts of the Attorney General before forming an opinion,” Cuomo said.
The 63-year-old governor was accused for the first time last week by former assistant Lindsey Boylan to kiss her without her permission, and to jokingly suggest a “strip poker” aboard an official flight. Cuomo’s office strongly denied Boylan’s account at the time that it was published on Medium.com.
Within days, another former assistant, Charlotte Bennett, 25, told The New York Times that Cuomo asked her questions last year, including whether she ‘ever been with an older man’, or whether she was monogamous in her relationships and other personal questions that made her feel uncomfortable.
According to Bennett, it is clear that Cuomo wants a sexual relationship with her.
Monday, The Times published claims of another woman, Anna Ruch, who said that Cuomo, whom she did not know, put his hand on her bare lower back during a wedding. The governor then told her she looked “aggressive” while bulging her face with his hands, according to Ruch.
Ruch, who previously worked in the White House during the Obama administration, said Cuomo then asked if he could kiss her.
A photo of an awkward Ruch with Cuomo holding her face accompanied the article.
Bennett exploded on Cuomo Monday about what he calls “predatory behavior” and called for other women to come forward if they have similar complaints about his behavior.
Ruch’s report increased the number of people Cuomo asked to resign, including Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice of New York.
Cuomo spoke to reporters for the first time on Wednesday about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and related developments in New York. He then succumbed to the sexual harassment scandal that has plagued him since last week.
“I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly,” he said. “First of all, I support a woman’s right to come forward, and I think it should be encouraged in every way.”
After apologizing for making the women feel uncomfortable, he said, “I’m embarrassed about it, and it’s not easy to say, but it’s the truth.”
“I want you to know … I never touched anyone improperly,” the governor said. “I never knew at the time that I would make anyone feel uncomfortable.”
“And I certainly never mean to offend anyone or hurt anyone or hurt anyone.”
“I learned from an incredibly difficult situation for myself as well as for other people, and I learned an important lesson,” Cuomo said.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused. I never intended to do that, and I would be the best for this experience.”
Cuomo later told reporters during questioning: “You can see hundreds of photos of me, men and women kissing. This is my usual and usual way of saying goodbye.”
“By the way, it was my father’s way of greeting people,” he said, referring to his late father Mario Cuomo, who himself served as governor.
Cuomo last weekend tried to control who would investigate the allegations by Boylan and Bennett, saying a former federal judge would do the job.
The governor then tried to have the state’s supreme judge, in conjunction with James, oversee the investigation.
Cuomo’s efforts caused a political setback, and James vehemently denied the arrangement. The governor quickly applauded, saying James’s office would handle the investigation itself.