Andrew Cuomo's response to AG sexual harassment report missed the mark.

Andrew Cuomo's Response To AG Sexual Harassment Report Misses The Mark

It doesn’t look like the governor will resign anytime soon.

by Daffany Chan
Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Following months of interviews, New York State Attorney General Letitia James released a 168-page report on Aug. 3 detailing findings of her department’s investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. According to the findings, the investigators found, among other things, “that the Governor engaged in conduct constituting sexual harassment under federal and New York State law.” Shortly after the report’s release, Cuomo shared his response on a livestream that looked to be pre-recorded, where he denied the report’s findings.

Attorney General James’ report concluded Cuomo violated state and federal law by sexually harassing multiple women and retaliating against a former employee. The findings, which took into consideration interviews with 179 people, concluded that Cuomo harassed staff members from 2013 to 2020. Additionally, the report “conclude[d] that the Executive Chamber’s culture ... contributed to the conditions that allowed the sexual harassment to occur and persist.”

In response, Cuomo spoke in a webcast on Aug. 3 and denied all of the claims and findings in the report, saying, “First, I want you to know directly from me that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.” He added, “I am 63 years old. I have lived my entire adult life in public view. That is just not who I am, and that’s not who I have ever been.” Following his blanket denial of all the claims, Cuomo said his lawyers had created a document that would refute each claim.

The governor zeroed in on a sexual harassment claim from his previous assistant, Charlotte Bennett — who told The New York Times in February 2021 that Cuomo had asked her if she dated older men and was monogamous. Cuomo said in his Aug. 3 response that Bennett “identified herself to me as a survivor of sexual assault,” and that he “did ask questions to see if she had positive, supportive dating relationships.” The governor claimed it was a family member’s past experience with sexual assault that made him think he could help Bennett. Cuomo said he was “deeply sorry,” but added that Bennett and her lawyer “read into comments that I made and [drew] inferences I never meant ... they heard things that I didn’t say.”

Prior to Cuomo’s remarks, Bennett’s lawyer, Debra Katz, responded to the AG report in a written statement: “The findings released today demonstrate what Charlotte Bennett stated publicly... [that] Cuomo sexually harassed her.” Elite Daily reached out to Katz for comment on Cuomo’s Aug. 3 remarks but did not hear back by the time of publication.

Cuomo went on to attribute what he called “trial by newspaper” — in which Anna Ruch accused the governor of making an unwanted advance at a wedding — to a misunderstanding. In his remarks, he shared the photo of him with his hands on Ruch’s face at the September 2019 wedding reception, and said, “I’ve been making the same gesture in public all my life. I actually learned it from my mother and my father. It is meant to covey warmth.”

He then went on to share photos of him touching other people in a similar fashion, including constituents, his family, and former President Bill Clinton. “I do it with everyone,” Cuomo added, referring to touching people’s faces.

Further refusing to address the real allegations, Cuomo blamed “generational or cultural perspectives” for perceptions of sexual misconduct. “On occasion, I do slip and say ‘sweetheart,’ ‘darling,’ or ‘honey,’” he said.

While denying all the findings in the report, Cuomo insisted that the “biased reviews” are not the way to “find the facts,” and that he’d “welcome the opportunity for a full and fair review before a judge and a jury.”

Cuomo closed his remarks with a continued denial of the findings and allegations, adding that he will “not be distracted from the job.” As long as it’s up to him, it certainly doesn’t look like Cuomo will be stepping down soon.