UPDATED 2/28/21 6 p.m. ET: Andrew Cuomo apologized for past “insensitive” comments in a statement responding to allegations of harassment in the New York governor’s office. While Cuomo maintains in the new statement that he never propositioned any of his co-workers or “inappropriately touched” staffers, he did note inter-office banter may have crossed a line into offensive territory.
“I never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm,” he said. “I spend most of my life at work and colleagues are often also personal friends.”
Cuomo added that he likes to tease people and said that he might have been careless in ribbing co-workers.
“Sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny,” he said. “I mean no offense and only attempt to add some levity.”
Cuomo explained that, given his position of authority, some of these conversations may have made subordinates uncomfortable. The governor apologized for making people feel “in ways [he] never intended.”
“To the extent that anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that,” he said.
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The Associated Press reports that Cuomo has asked Attorney General Letitia James and Janet DiFiore, chief judge of the Court of Appeals, to jointly appoint an independent lawyer to examine the accusations from two former aides, who say Cuomo sexually harassed them.
“The Governor’s Office wants a review of the sexual harassment claims made against the Governor to be done in a manner beyond reproach,” Beth Garvey, special counsel to the governor, said. “We had selected former Federal Judge Barbara Jones, with a stellar record for qualifications and integrity, but we want to avoid even the perception of a lack of independence or inference of politics.”
The Cuomo administration has requested James and DiFiore to work together to choose “an independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation to conduct a thorough review of the matter and issue a public report.” Garvey added that the lawyer would be the only one in control of the investigation.
“There must be a truly independent investigation to thoroughly review these troubling allegations against the governor, and I stand ready to oversee that investigation and make any appointments necessary,” James said. “I urge the governor to make this referral immediately.”
Cuomo’s new plan arrives shortly after a second woman, former aide Charlotte Bennett, claimed that the governor harassed her in the workplace—and a statement Cuomo made in response to her accusations.
Bennett told The New York Times that Cuomo acted inappropriately to her, including asking about her sex life and if she ever had slept with older men. The first woman who accused Cuomo of sexual harassment, Lindsey Boylan, made her allegations public in December, saying the governor kissed her without her consent and made inappropriate remarks. He has since denied Boylan’s claims.