Late last month, Gov. Cuomo asked Attorney General Letitia James and Janet DiFiore—chief judge of the Court of Appeals—to jointly appoint an independent lawyer to look into the accusations of sexual harassment. Those accusations, as previously reported, came from former aides of Cuomo.
One aide, named in a New York Times report as Charlotte Bennett, alleged Cuomo had asked her questions about her sex life including whether she had sex with older men. Another aide, former economic adviser Lindsey Boylan, alleged that Cuomo had sexually harassed her “for years,” adding that “many saw it.”
In a previously released statement, Cuomo—who also faced calls for a harassment allegations investigation from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—said he acknowledged “some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation” and added he was “truly sorry about that.”
Cuomo has also faced criticism, as has his administration, over their handling of mid-pandemic nursing home data. During a private virtual meeting in February, a partial transcript of which was released by Cuomo’s office, Melissa DeRosa—secretary to the governor—said the state had held off on sharing nursing home death data due to worries associated with a then-possible DOJ investigation.
Also in February, Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim alleged in comments to CNN that Cuomo had threatened him over the phone regarding the scandal. A Cuomo advisor denied this.
On Wednesday, Cuomo opened his pandemic presser with more updates on the current state of COVID-19 in the state of New York, including the latest word on the vaccine rollout and hospitalization rates.
Later, Cuomo told viewers he needed to make an “unrelated announcement,” which was quickly revealed to be about the harassment allegations.
“As you probably know, the Attorney General is doing an independent review and I will fully cooperate with that review,” he said. “The lawyers say I shouldn’t say anything … I understand, I’m a lawyer too. But I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this. First, I fully support a woman’s right to come forward and I think it should be encouraged in every way. 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. I feel awful about it and frankly I am embarrassed by it. And that’s not easy to say. But that’s the truth.”
From there, Cuomo denied having “touched anyone inappropriately” and urged the public to wait for the results of the review.
“I never touched anyone inappropriately,” he said. “I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable. I never knew at the time I was making anyone feel uncomfortable and I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do. I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the Attorney General’s report before forming an opinion. Get the facts, please, before forming an opinion. And the Attorney General is doing that review. I will fully cooperate with it and then you will know the facts and make a decision when you know the facts.”
And when taking questions, Cuomo was asked about photos that have circulated showing him touching people’s faces. According to Cuomo, he often greets or interacts with people (including constituents) in the same fashion. He conceded, however, that his intentions didn’t matter and reiterated his apologies.
Cuomo also confirmed that he does not intend to resign or otherwise step down. Catch the full press conference below.