New York City mayor Bill de Blasio spent a significant part of Monday morning criticizing Governor Andrew Cuomo in the wake of a second former aide coming forward with accusations of sexual harassment.
”It sickened me. It sickened me, the thought of a powerful man trying to take advantage of his power, intimidate a young woman,” de Blasio said during an interview on Hot 97.
Cuomo was first accused of sexual harassment by Lindsey Boylan, a former economic-development aide who alleged in an essay published last Wednesday that the governor made inappropriate comments and once kissed her on the lips without her consent following a meeting.
Charlotte Bennett, a former executive assistant and health-policy adviser in the Cuomo administration, came forward over the weekend, telling the New York Times that Cuomo asked her questions about her sex life when she was working for him last year. Bennett, 25, said that during one conversation in June, the governor, who is 63, indicated that he would be open to dating women who were in their 20s.
Cuomo released a statement on Sunday expressing remorse for some of his past actions, saying he is sometimes “playful” at work and will “make jokes” about people’s personal lives.
“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that,” Cuomo said.
Following his appearance on Hot 97, de Blasio — who’s had a testy relationship with Cuomo throughout his time in office — continued lambasting the governor at a news conference, saying his apology was inadequate.
“That’s not an apology. He seemed to be saying, ‘Oh, I was just kidding around.’ Sexual harassment’s not funny. It’s serious, and it has to be taken seriously,” de Blasio said. “And he just clearly was letting himself off the hook for something that, for the women involved, sounded pretty terrifying.”
He added, “We need a full investigation. We need the whole truth of what happened. We need to make sure it never happens again.”
De Blasio drew a connection between the harassment claims and recent criticism of the Cuomo administration for its handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes, saying “both [of] these issues need to be looked into.”
“We cannot just look at one or the other. We need a full investigation of the nursing-home issue, where thousands of people died, information was covered up on purpose, and we still don’t know if our seniors are safe going forward,” de Blasio said.
Asked if the harassment claims should result in a resignation for Cuomo, de Blasio said, “If someone purposefully tried to use their power to force a woman to have sex with them, of course that’s someone who should no longer be in public service.”
The accusations of sexual harassment come at a time when Cuomo was already under fire following claims that he threatened Assemblyman Ron Kim for publicly criticizing his COVID-19 response. De Blasio had previously said the “bullying was nothing new.”
“I think more and more people are going to be talking about what they’ve experienced,” the mayor continued on Monday. “And I think as people see more and more evidence, it’s gonna be clear this is not how any leader should treat anybody. What these two women went through is absolutely unacceptable. What Ron Kim went through, having his career threatened. Again, just look at this pattern of abuse.”
He added, “I think a lot of truth is coming out. I think more truth will come out.”