After two former aides accused New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, New York Attorney General Letitia James has finally launched a formal investigation into their allegations.
Though Cuomo himself requested “an independent and qualified lawyer” to “conduct a thorough review of the matter and issue a public report,” James denied, wielding her office to “hire a law firm, deputize them as attorneys of our office, and oversee a rigorous and independent investigation.”
“Today, the executive chamber transmitted a referral letter to our office, providing us the authority to move forward with an independent investigation into allegations of sexual harassment claims made against Governor Cuomo,” James said in a statement. “This is not a responsibility we take lightly as allegations of sexual harassment should always be taken seriously. As the letter states, at the close of the review, the findings will be disclosed in a public report.”
“All members of the Governor’s office will cooperate fully. We will have no further comment until the report is issued,” said Beth Garvey, special counsel and senior advisor to Cuomo.
So far, two former aides, Lindsey Boylen and Charlotte Bennett have come forth with allegations. Boylen claimed Cuomo created a hostile work environment and kissed her during a meeting while Bennett alleged Cuomo asked invasive questions regarding her sex life.
As the pressure to resign mounts on Cuomo, he released a flurry of statements on Sunday night, apologizing to Bennett for his behavior and reiterating his hope for an independent investigation.
“At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny,” Cuomo said. “I do, on occasion, tease people in what I think is a good-natured way. I do it in public and in private. 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.”
“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 asserted. “That’s why I have asked for an outside, independent review that looks at these allegations.”
However, Bennett refused to accept the apology, saying in a statement that Cuomo “refused to acknowledge or take responsibility for his predatory behavior.”
Cuomo faces near-unanimous condemnation from both sides of the aisle, with even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the White House casting support for an investigation. “The women who have come forward with serious and credible charges against Governor Cuomo deserve to be heard and to be treated with dignity,” Pelosi said in a statement to news outlets.
“We certainly believe that every woman coming forward, Charlotte, Lindsey, should be treated with respect and dignity and be able to tell their story,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefing in Washington.
Many are beginning to demand Cuomo’s resignation following both the multiple accounts of sexual harassment and an ongoing scandal over his administration’s handling of nursing home patients early in the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in a federal investigation to uncover if his administration misreported the death toll of nursing home patients and then intentionally covered it up.