A third woman has accused New York governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment. In an interview with the New York Times, Anna Ruch described an encounter at a wedding reception in which the governor put his hand on her bare lower back, put his hands on her face, and kissed her on the cheek without her consent.
Ruch, now 33, recalled that Cuomo put his hand on the small of her back — which was exposed in an open-back dress — almost immediately after the two were introduced at a New York City wedding reception in September 2019. Ruch recalls that she “promptly removed his hand with my hand, which I would have thought was a clear enough indicator that I was not wanting him to touch me.” But when she did so, Cuomo said — loud enough for her friend to hear — that she was being “aggressive.” He then placed his hands on her cheeks, asking if he could kiss her. She pulled away as Cuomo came closer and kissed her on the cheek.
The exchange, corroborated by contemporaneous text messages and photos from the wedding, left Ruch feeling “confused and shocked and embarrassed.”
“It’s the act of impunity that strikes me,” Ruch told the Times. “I didn’t have a choice in that matter. I didn’t have a choice in his physical dominance over me at that moment. And that’s what infuriates me. And even with what I could do, removing his hand from my lower back, even doing that was not clear enough.”
After the exchange, Ruch’s friend walked over expressing her concern. “It was when my friend looked at me and said, ‘Are you okay?’ with such genuine concern in her face that I realized how obviously inappropriate it was,” she told the Times. “Not only to me but to those around me as well.” After she regained her poise, she says she hoped to speak with him that night to call out his behavior, though she could not find him. “I would have rather just said it that night. I wanted to say, ‘That wasn’t okay.’”
Ruch’s account is the third accusation of sexual harassment since former aide Lindsey Boylan came forward last Wednesday, alleging that the governor compared her to a former girlfriend, made inappropriate comments, and kissed her “on the lips” without her consent while the two were alone in his office. On Saturday, a second former aide, Charlotte Bennett, told the Times that Cuomo approached her last June in a conversation about age gaps in dating, asking if she had “ever been with an older man.” (Bennett is 25, and Cuomo is 63.) “I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” she said. Bennett also said Cuomo suggested she get a tattoo she was considering on her butt.
On Sunday, after resisting giving up an element of control over the inquiry, Cuomo turned the investigation into the sexual-harassment claims over to New York Attorney General Letitia James. The Cuomo administration is also reportedly facing a Department of Justice inquiry into allegations that the state underreported coronavirus deaths in nursing homes at the beginning of the pandemic. State lawmakers accused Cuomo’s administration of hiding data about the deaths from them, and at least one says he was threatened by Cuomo personally after criticizing the administration on the issue.
While the first two allegations resulted in calls for Cuomo’s resignation from Democratic state senator Alessandra Biaggi and state assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, Ruch’s accusation prompted several more New York lawmakers — as well as U.S. Representative Kathleen Rice — to demand he step down.