What to Know
- At least two Democrats in the state legislature called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign over new sexual harassment allegations
- Two former aides have now accused him of inappropriate behavior; at the same time federal prosecutors have launched a probe into his administration’s handling of COVID in nursing homes
- Cuomo appointed a former federal judge to probe the harassment claims, but top legislators called for a “truly independent” review
At least two Democrats in the state legislature called for NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign overnight, as others demanded a “truly independent” investigation into new claims of sexual harassment against the governor by a former aide.
It marked the latest turn in a stunning reversal of fortune for Cuomo, who just a few months ago was so popular that he was seen as a top candidate for attorney general in the Biden administration, and was considered a frontrunner for the Democrats’ nomination for president in 2024.
But a triple-header of scandal has imperiled his future — first allegations of verbal abuse and threats by a lawmaker, then a federal probe into how his administration handled COVID nursing home deaths, and now claims he was verbally and physically inappropriate with multiple young female staffers.
Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, who represents Manhattan’s Chinatown, called Cuomo a “manipulative, controlling, abusive, power obsessed, predator” and asked him to resign in a tweet Saturday night.
Shortly thereafter, state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi — the chair of the Senate’s ethics committee — cited a “clear pattern of abuse and manipulation by the Governor” and called on him to resign.
Multiple candidates for NYC mayor, including Scott Stringer and Carlos Menchaca, called for Cuomo’s resignation as well, while others like frontrunner Andrew Yang called for independent probes into the governor. (At least one called for impeachment proceedings, a less likely hurdle given that conviction would require a two-thirds majority in the Democrat-controlled Senate.)
The demands came quickly after a second former aide to Cuomo leveled claims of sexual harassment against the New York governor, saying he asked “questions about her sex life, whether she was monogamous in her relationships and if she had ever had sex with older men.”
Charlotte Bennett, a former executive assistant and health policy adviser, described to The New York Times a conversation with Cuomo where he asked her personal questions about her sex life and whether she had slept with older men. She left the governor’s office last November, months after the alleged harassment occurred during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 25-year-old woman said she was alone with the governor in his office on June 5 when he asked if she slept with an older men. Bennett said the governor never made a physical advance but his questions clearly suggested unprofessional conduct.
“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett told the Times. “And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”
Bennett says she disclosed the meeting with Cuomo’s chief of staff and special counsel shortly after the interaction. She stated an investigation did not feel worth pursuing because she “wanted to move on.”
Beth Garvey, current special counsel and senior adviser to the governor, confirmed Bennett’s reporting of the incident and her “satisfaction and appreciation for the way in which it was handled.” The matter was considered closed and no further action was taken.
The New York governor released a statement Saturday evening announcing an outside review of the latest allegations, but denied making “advances toward Ms. Bennett,” whom he called a “hardworking and valued member of our team during COVID.” That review will be conducted by former federal judge Barbara Jones, Cuomo’s special counsel said, with no limits on its scope.
“I ask all New Yorkers to await the findings of the review so that they know the facts before any judgments. I will have no further comment until the review has concluded,” his statement ended.
But that probe was almost universally questioned within hours, given that Cuomo was picking his own outside reviewer.
Both Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie issued statements calling for a “truly independent investigation” into the allegations, and another state senator, Liz Krueger, said Jones was “not an acceptable option” because one of the governor’s closest friends is her law partner.
Heastie in particular called for the matter to be referred to Attorney General Letitia James for her office to oversee an independent review, as did other prominent figures like Rep. Jerry Nadler.
Gov. Cuomo is under fire as a former aide reveals a detailed accusation of sexual harassment, Jonathan Dienst has the latest
These new allegations come only a few days after former senior staffer Lindsey Boylan published an explosive blog post in which she alleged the governor invited her to play strip poker during a flight, among other alleged sexual advances. On one occasion in 2016, she claimed that Cuomo blocked her exit from a room and kissed her.
“As we said before, Ms. Boylan’s claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false,” Cuomo’s office said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. As to the specific claim about the alleged Oct. 2017 proposition to play strip poker, the statement cites four aides who traveled with Boylan that month and say the conversation never happened.
Boylan – who ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year and is running for Manhattan borough president this year – first accused Cuomo of sexual harassment last December. At the time, she said she left her position as deputy secretary for economic development in 2018 because she couldn’t stand working with him anymore. Cuomo denied the claims then in the strongest terms.
Boylan’s latest allegations came just hours after a Daily News op-ed by a former top Cuomo aide, Karen Hinton, who described an environment where he dominated female employees.
The allegations from Bennett and Boylan add to the deluge against Cuomo in recent weeks.
A Queens assemblyman said he’d been harassed and threatened by the governor, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said publicly that being threatened by Cuomo was “classic” behavior for him, federal prosecutors launched an investigation into how the Cuomo administration handled COVID in nursing homes — and a new poll found that 57% of New Yorkers want a new governor next year.
Cuomo, who has drawn bipartisan criticism in recent weeks over dueling but separate controversies, hasn’t held a live on-camera COVID briefing with a Q&A since Feb 19. Until this week, he had held at least three of those weekly since COVID hospitalizations began to climb ahead of the holidays.