Governor Andrew Cuomo addressed the recent sexual-harassment accusations against him during a press conference Wednesday afternoon, saying that he wanted New Yorkers “to hear directly from me on this.”
“I fully support a woman’s right to come forward and I think it should be encouraged in every way,” he said.
Cuomo also apologized again, saying, “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.”
The governor said he intends to cooperate with State Attorney General Letitia James’s investigation and asked New Yorkers to wait for its report to be released before forming an opinion.
But he also seemed to offer a preview of his defense, saying he “never touched anyone inappropriately.”
“I never knew at the time that 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,” Cuomo said.
In the past week, Cuomo has been accused of sexual harassment by three different women: Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett, two former administration employees, and Anna Ruch, who met the governor at a wedding reception.
In her account, Boylan alleged that Cuomo gave her an unwanted kiss on the lips after a meeting. Ruch claimed that the governor touched her bare lower back at the wedding reception and, at one point, placed his hands on her cheeks and asked if he could kiss her. Ruch supported the story with a photo of the two of them with the governor’s hands on her face.
Asked specifically about the photo with Ruch, Cuomo said, “You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people. Women, men, children, etc. … It is my usual and customary way of greeting.”
He added, “However, what I also understand is it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter my intent. What matters is if anybody was offended by it, and I could intend no offense, but if they were offended by it, then it was wrong. And if they were offended by it, I apologize.”
The governor downplayed recent calls for him to step down, some even coming from members of his own party, saying, “Some politicians will always play politics. That’s the nature of the beast.”
Cuomo pointed to the state government’s having a “full plate” of issues to work on with COVID-19, the financial recovery, and a “teetering New York City,” an apparent knock on his frequent adversary New York City mayor Bill de Blasio.
“I’m not going to resign. I work for the people of the state of New York. They elected me, and I’m gonna serve the people of the state of New York,” Cuomo said.
Debra S. Katz, a lawyer speaking on behalf of Bennett, said in a statement to the New York Times, “The governor’s press conference was full of falsehoods and inaccurate information, and New Yorkers deserve better.”