New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced a barrage of criticism from fellow Democrats after The New York Times reported that the second former aide in four days had accused him of sexual harassment.
Why it matters: Cuomo had faced a revolt from legislators for his handling of nursing-home deaths from COVID. Now, the scandal is acutely personal, with obviously grave political risk.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that the women’s “detailed accounts of sexual harassment by Gov. Cuomo are extremely serious and painful to read,” and said the state attorney general should investigate.
- She was among several Democrats said an “independent review” announced by Cuomo was inadequate.
- “This is no joke,” Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) tweeted above the Times story. “There must be an independent investigation into these allegations. The accused CANNOT appoint the investigator. PERIOD.”
Charlotte Bennett, 25, an executive assistant and health policy adviser in the Cuomo administration until November, told The Times (subscription) that the governor, 63, had harassed her during the height of the state’s COVID fight, including asking whether “she had ever had sex with older men.”
- The most disturbing encounter came June 5, when she was alone with Cuomo in his Capitol office, The Times reports:
[S]he said the governor had asked her numerous questions about her personal life, including whether she thought age made a difference in romantic relationships, and had said that he was open to relationships with women in their 20s — comments she interpreted as clear overtures to a sexual relationship.
- Bennett said Cuomo complained about being lonely during the pandemic, mentioning that he “can’t even hug anyone,” then asking her: “Who did I last hug?”
Cuomo requested an independent review, and said in a statement that he had intended to act as a mentor: “I never made advances toward Ms. Bennett nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate.”
- Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” that she wants an independent investigation and said of the one Cuomo announced: “I wouldn’t consider that to be independent.”
On Wednesday, former aide Lindsey Boylan, 36, wrote that Cuomo suggested: “Let’s play strip poker.”
Fox News also reports:
A second former aide to Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has come forward with allegations of sexual harassment, which came just days after his first accuser made her claims public.
Charlotte Bennett, who is described by The New York Times as “an executive assistant and health policy adviser in the Cuomo administration until she left in November,” alleges that Cuomo “asked her questions about her sex life, whether she was monogamous in her relationships and if she had ever had sex with older men.”
The 25-year-old staffer described to the Times an incident that took place in June when she was “alone” with the 63-year-old governor in his State Capitol office. According to the report, he allegedly asked her if she thought age made a difference in romantic relationships and that he was open to having relationships with women in their 20s, which were noted by the Times as “comments she interpreted as clear overtures to a sexual relationship.”
While Bennett alleges that Cuomo never tried touching her, the governor’s “message” during that exchange was “unmistakable to her.”
“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett told the Times. “And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”
According to the Times, Bennett disclosed the incident to Cuomo’s chief of staff Jill DesRosiers less than a week later and submitted a lengthier statement to Cuomo’s special counsel Judith Mogul towards the end of the month. She was also transferred to another job as a health policy adviser, placing her on the opposite side of the Capitol building.
Bennett told the Times she didn’t persist in seeking an investigation because she “wanted to move on” and that she was content with her new job.
In a press release on Saturday, Cuomo called Bennett a “hardworking and valued member of our team during COVID” who has “every right to speak out.”
“When she came to me and opened up about being a sexual assault survivor and how it shaped her and her ongoing efforts to create an organization that empowered her voice to help other survivors, I tried to be supportive and helpful,” Cuomo said in a statement, which was issued to the Times. “Ms. Bennett’s initial impression was right: I was trying to be a mentor to her. I never made advances toward Ms. Bennett nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate. The last thing I would ever have wanted was to make her feel any of the things that are being reported.”
Cuomo added that he will “have no further comment” until a “full and thorough outside review” of Bennett’s claims is conducted and concluded.
As the Times noted in its report, Cuomo did not deny Bennett’s claims about asking such personal questions.
Cuomo’s special counsel Beth Garvey also released a statement, which read, “Ms. Bennett’s concerns were treated with sensitivity and respect and in accordance with applicable law and policy. The matter was promptly escalated to special counsel. Ms. Bennett received the transfer she requested to a position in which she had expressed a long-standing interest, and was thoroughly debriefed on the facts which did not include a claim of physical contact or inappropriate sexual conduct. She was consulted regarding the resolution, and expressed satisfaction and appreciation for the way in which it was handled.”
“The determination reached based on the information Ms. Bennett provided was that no further action was required which was consistent with Ms. Bennett’s wishes.”
Fox News reached out to Bennett and DesRosiers for comment.
Lindsey Boylan, Cuomo’s first accuser, expressed her support for Bennett.
“I am with you Charlotte. We are with you. Always,” Boylan wrote. “I am so proud of you Charlotte.”
Boylan, the former deputy secretary for economic development and a special adviser to Cuomo, published a bombshell essay Wednesday on the website Medium. She accused the governor of going “out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs,” forcibly kissing her on the lips during a one-on-one briefing, and suggesting that they “play strip poker” during a plane ride.
Cuomo’s office denied Boylan’s harassment claims, calling them “simply false” and insisting the strip poker comment “did not happen.”
Meanwhile, the prominent Democrat is also facing a growing scandal over his controversial policy of ordering COVID-positive patients into nursing homes in the early months of the pandemic and is now reportedly facing investigations by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney over an alleged cover-up of nursing home deaths in his state.
CNN, the home network of Cuomo’s kid brother Chris Cuomo, has given the governor unprecedented cover in downplaying his various scandals. The far-left network previously gave developments into his nursing home controversy little to no airtime — and allowed the “Cuomo Prime Time” anchor free rein to conduct friendly, comical interviews with the embattled Democrat in the early months of the pandemic. CNN also went roughly 24 hours without acknowledging Boylan’s damning sexual harassment claims after she came forward.
Cuomo himself appeared to offer a holier than thou stance during the contentious 2018 confirmation battle of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. As President Trump’s SCOTUS nominee faced allegations of sexual misconduct, Cuomo suggested that he take a “polygraph test” like his prominent accuser Dr. Christine Blasey Ford did.
“If he does not take a polygraph test, it is the ultimate, ‘he said, she said,'” Cuomo said at the time.