The Cuomo administration issued a statement refuting the first claims of sexual harassment last week. Lindsey Boylan — a former state economic development official and aide of the governor — said Cuomo “would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs,” compared her to one of his rumored ex-girlfriends, and once remarked they should play strip poker.
Gov. Cuomo’s press secretary Caitlin Girouard then released a statement saying in part: “As we said before, Ms. Boylan’s claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false.”
Charlotte Bennett, a health policy adviser in the governor’s administration until November, told The New York Times over the weekend that Cuomo asked her inappropriate questions about her sex life, including whether she had ever had sex with older men.
The governor then issued the following statement:
“Ms. Bennett was a hardworking and valued member of our team during COVID. She 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. 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.
This situation cannot and should not be resolved in the press; I believe the best way to get to the truth is through a full and thorough outside review and I am directing all state employees to comply with that effort. I ask all New Yorkers to await the findings of the review so that they know the facts before making any judgements. I will have no further comment until the review has concluded.”
On Monday, Anna Ruch — a former member of the Obama administration and the 2020 Biden campaign — said the governor placed a hand on her bare lower back at a 2019 wedding reception before grabbing her face and asking if he could kiss her.
The governor and his administration have not publicly addressed Ruch’s claims as of Tuesday afternoon.
The New York Attorney General’s office confirmed they saw Anna Ruch’s account in the New York Times Monday night and officials will decide whether to incorporate it into the just-launched investigation into the governor’s conduct. Ruch’s account is distinct from the prior two in that she did not work for Cuomo.
Both Boylan and Bennett tweeted support for Ruch Monday night:
Democrats in New York and around the nation aren’t rallying to his side, leaving the governor increasingly isolated from traditional allies.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, both Democrats, said they wanted the attorney general to handle the investigation. Republican leaders had, for days, called on James to launch a probe. On Sunday, Republican state Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt called on Cuomo to resign, a sentiment Orrt reiterated at a Monday press conference.
On Monday, New York Attorney General Letitia James received a referral letter to investigate allegations of sexual harassment against Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Her office released the following statement on Monday afternoon after the executive chamber issued the formal referral granting her request:
“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. 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.”
On Sunday, James announced that she would appoint a special deputy to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations. Her office tangled with the Office of the Governor after Cuomo suggested a federal judge with ties to his administration to lead the investigation.
Below is the text of the letter from Cuomo’s Special Counsel, Beth Garvey:
“Dear Attorney General James,
The Governor is hereby making a referral pursuant to Executive Law Section §63 (8) for you to select an independent law firm to conduct an inquiry into allegations of and circumstances surrounding sexual harassment claims made against the Governor.
As provided in Executive Law §63 (8), that private attorney or private attorneys, may be designated as Special Deputy Attorney General or Assistant Deputy Attorney General, to conduct the review.
Nothing in this letter is intended to constrain or limit any of the powers inherent in Executive Law §63 (8). Due to the nature of this review, however, the weekly reports contemplated by Executive Law §63 (8) will not be approved by or transmitted to the Executive. At the close of the review, the findings will be disclosed in a public report.
All New York State employees have been directed to cooperate fully with this review. I will serve as point of contact for any witness interviews or document production for the Executive Chamber and will connect you with appropriate counsel in any other agency or entity for any documents or witnesses necessary for the review.“