New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, has recently been confronted with numerous allegations of sexual harassment. Cuomo has been praised by fellow Democrats for his response to the widespread COVID-19 outbreak in his state, but this was quickly overshadowed by six separate claims of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior towards women.
The first claim of sexual harassment comes from Lindsey Boylan, a former aide to the Governor. In an essay published on February 24, Boylan alleges that she experienced multiple unsettling interactions with Cuomo over the course of the years during which she worked with him. Boylan claims that in a one-on-one meeting in Cuomo’s Manhattan office in 2018, Cuomo made a non-consensual advance on her by kissing her on the lips as she exited his office. After the alleged kiss, Boylan comments that she “was in shock, but [she] kept walking.”
The incident in 2018 was not the first time Boylan claims she was harassed by Cuomo. In the essay, she writes that she was made aware by her boss at Empire State Development that Cuomo had a “crush” on her and further claims that Cuomo touched her lower back, arms and legs. She also alleges that in October 2017, while on a flight back to New York City, Cuomo made a comment about wanting to play strip poker with her.
In response to Boylan’s allegations, Cuomo, during a COVID-19 briefing on March 3, said “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.” He explained that he feels “awful” and “embarassed.” He says he has “learned an important lesson.”
The second claim of sexual harassment came from 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett who also served as a former aide to the governor up until November of 2020. Bennett worked as an executive assistant and advisor of health policy before she eventually left the Cuomo administration last year.
Bennett claims that the incident with the governor occurred on June 5, 2020, in the governor’s State Capitol office. Bennett alleges that she and Cuomo were alone in the office and that he asked her if she believed age was of significance in romantic relationships. Since Cuomo is 63 years old, Bennett explains that she took this comment to mean that “the governor wanted to sleep with me, and [I] felt horribly uncomfortable and scared.”
According to Bennett, the discomfort that Cuomo caused her did not stop there, adding that the governor also confided in her about the loneliness he felt due to the pandemic. Bennett explains that Cuomo even went so far as to ask her who she last hugged. She claims that she attempted to avoid answering the question and diverted the topic by saying that she missed seeing her parents. After the incident, Bennett noted that she reported the remark to Cuomo’s Chief of Staff, and because of this she was moved to a different position.
The third claim came from Anna Ruch, a woman who did not personally know Cuomo before seeing him at a wedding reception in New York City in 2019. Ruch alleges that following a toast Cuomo made to the newlyweds, he placed his hand on her lower back. She claims she subsequently removed his hand from her back, to which Cuomo responded by calling her “aggressive.” According to Ruch, Cuomo then put both of his hands on her cheeks and inquired if he could kiss her. As he leaned in to kiss her, Ruch says that she pulled away and remembers feeling “so confused, and shocked, and embarrassed.”
The incident was documented by a friend of Ruch who captured a photo of Cuomo and Ruch together. Cuomo later released a statement addressing Ruch’s allegations, saying that his words may “have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation” and followed up with an apology by saying “to the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.”
The New York Attorney General Letitia James has announced that the former Acting U.S Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Joon H. Kim, and employment discrimination attorney, Anne L. Clark, will be the two attorneys heading an independent investigation about the allegations. James spoke further about the investigation and indicated that they “are committed to an independent and thorough investigation of the facts.”
Following the recent revival of the #MeToo Movement and the kidnapping and murder of UK resident Sarah Everard, the world has gained a heightened sense of sympathy for victims of sexual harassment, non-consensual sexual advances, and violence towards women. Cuomo is being called to resign by both Democrats and Republicans and has been warned that he may face impeachment charges.