KEY POINTS

  • Two former aides leveled sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo
  • He acknowledged that many of his interactions may have been insensitive 
  • Cuomo was under fire for alleged underreporting of COVID-19 nursing home deaths

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is battling accusations of sexual harassment from two former aides, acknowledged Sunday that his "interactions may have been insensitive" and "some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation."

Cuomo said, "At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I do, on occasion, tease people in what I think is a good-natured way." 

He said he has "teased people about their personal lives" but meant no offense and was only trying to "add some levity and banter to what is a very serious business." 

He also offered an apology, saying "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."

Charlotte Bennett, a former aide, alleged that Cuomo asked her about her sex life, relationships and if she ever had sex with older men. She said she understood that Cuomo wanted to sleep with her, and felt uncomfortable and scared. The previous day, another aide, Lindsey Boylan, alleged the governor kissed her on the lips in 2018. 

Cuomo's office, in another statement, said it was asking New York attorney general Letitia James to pick an independent attorney to investigate the sexual harassment allegations against him, reports The Hill.

“The Governor’s office wants a thorough and independent review that is above reproach and beyond political interference. Therefore the Governor’s office has asked Attorney General Tish James to select a qualified private lawyer to do an independent review of allegations of sexual harassment,” the statement said. 

The Governor, whose political career has taken a severe hit, had to back down from his initial plan to have James and Janet DiFiore, the chief judge on the state’s highest court who was appointed by Cuomo himself, choose who will oversee the probe. Following opposition from fellow Democrats and a day of back-and-forth with James, Cuomo finally had to give in to her demands. 

"While I have deep respect for Chief Judge DiFiore, I am the duly elected attorney general and it is my responsibility to carry out this task," James said.

After Cuomo entrusted the AG to pick an independent attorney, James tweeted that her office expects "to receive a referral with subpoena power to investigate allegations of sexual harassment against the governor, in line with our demands and New York state law. The referral would be made solely to the attorney general's office."

"This is not a responsibility we take lightly," she added. "We will hire a law firm, deputize them as attorneys of our office, and oversee a rigorous and independent investigation."

Cuomo administration is already under fire for the alleged underreporting of Covid-19 nursing home deaths and the administration's delay in providing data about the deaths to state lawmakers. While some accuse Cuomo of a cover-up, the back-to-back controversies have reportedly shadowed his chances for a fourth term in the 2022 election.  

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has denied sexual harassment allegations from a second woman New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Photo: POOL / Seth Wenig