Cuomo sorry for remarks aide 'misinterpreted' as harassment
ALBANY, NY (AP) - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo first admitted on Sunday that some of his behaviors toward women "may have been insensitive or overly personal," and said he would face a state-led investigation into sexual ones Harassment cooperate attorney general.
In a statement released under increasing criticism from within his own party, the Democrat claimed he had never touched or suggested anyone inappropriately. But he said he raised people about their personal life to be "playful".
“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or overly personal, and that because of my position, some of my comments made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge that some of the things I have said have been misunderstood as unwanted flirtation. If anyone felt that way, I'm really sorry, "he said.
Cuomo, one of America's most prominent governors, faces the greatest challenge of his decade in office after alleging sexually molested at least two women who worked for him. Democrats in New York and across the country are not standing by his side, leaving him increasingly isolated from traditional allies.
His partial admission of wrongdoing came after a day of fighting over who should investigate his conduct in the workplace.
At the end of the day, Cuomo gave in to demands that Attorney General Letitia James oversee the investigation.
James said she was awaiting a formal referral that would give her office the power to summon and represent an outside law firm for "a rigorous and independent investigation."
"This is not a responsibility we take lightly," said James, a Democrat who was temporarily allied with Cuomo but was independently elected and had been found to be a consensus decision to lead an investigation.
Demand for an investigation came after a second former Cuomo administration employee went public with harassment claims on Saturday.
Charlotte Bennett, a low-ranking advisor in the governor's administration through November, told the New York Times that Cuomo asked questions about her sex life, including whether she had ever had sex with older men, and made other comments that she considered measure for their interest in an interpreted affair.
Her allegation came days after another former adviser, Lindsey Boylan, a former economic development adviser, responded to harassment allegations she first made in December. Boylan said Cuomo exposed her to an unwanted kiss and made comments about her appearance.
Cuomo, 63, said he planned to mentor Bennett, who is 25 years old. He has denied Boylan's allegations.
For several hours on Sunday, James and other top party officials rejected two of Cuomo's proposals on how an investigation could proceed.
Under his initial plan, a retired federal judge selected by Cuomo, Barbara Jones, would have reviewed his conduct in the workplace. In the second proposal, announced on Sunday morning to appease lawmakers, Cuomo called on James and the state appeals court judge Janet DiFiore to jointly appoint an attorney to investigate and issue a public report.
James turned down both plans and requested a formal referral which gave her office the authority to summon documents and provide testimony.
Many of the biggest names in New York City politics sided with James.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Congregation Speaker Carl Heastie, both Democrats, said they wanted the Attorney General to handle the investigation. Republican leaders had been telling James to launch a probe for days. On Sunday, the minority leader of the Republican Senate, Robert Ortt, called on Cuomo to resign.
Two New York Senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, said an independent investigation was essential.
“These allegations are serious and deeply worrying. At the request of Attorney General James, the matter should be referred to her office so that she can conduct a transparent, independent and thorough subpoena investigation, ”said Gillibrand.
Cuomo's testimony that women misinterpreted comments intended as jokes met with outrage from some people, who said he appeared to blame women.
"Is it 'playful' to touch employees' legs and kiss them on the lips against their will? Bc better men than A Cuomo have been fired for it," tweeted former Fox News and NBC journalist Megyn Kelly, her allegations for sexual harassment of late Fox News chairman Roger Ailes.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden also supports an independent review that "should move forward as soon as possible."
The excitement comes amid a new round of criticism of Cuomo's leadership style and measures his government has taken to protect his reputation as the leader of the coronavirus pandemic.
Cuomo was praised as a strong hand in the crisis last spring with rising case numbers and overcrowded morgues. His book, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From The COVID-19 Pandemic, was published in October.
However, in recent weeks, his government has been forced to revise the number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes after criticizing it for undercounting deaths in order to blunt allegations that some of his government's policies had made matters worse .
James fueled some of that criticism by issuing a report saying the Cuomo administration had undercounted the deaths.
Now his support is waning faster.
"Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett's detailed reports of sexual harassment by Governor Cuomo are extremely serious and painful to read," said US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter on Sunday. "There needs to be an independent investigation - not one led by someone chosen by the governor, but by the Attorney General."
Matthews reported from New York City.
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