New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is currently facing scrutiny over hiding nursing home deaths amidst the pandemic, has been slammed with sexual harassment claims by two former female members of his administration, Charlotte Bennett and Lindsey Boylan.
A third woman, Anna Ruch, has also recently come forward with allegations that Cuomo made unwanted advances towards her in 2019. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced that President Biden is seeking an independent investigation into the issue.
“President Biden has been consistent that he believes that every woman should be heard, should be treated with respect and with dignity. Charlotte should be treated with respect and dignity. So should Lindsey. There should be an independent review looking into these allegations, and that’s certainly something he supports and we believe should move forward as quickly as possible,” Psaki told CNN.
The first person to come forward with the allegations was Lindsey Boylan, who used to work as deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to the governor under the Cuomo administration. In a post on Medium, Boylan details several instances of sexual harassment by Cuomo, including repeatedly touching her body, objectification, asking her to play strip poker, and trying to kiss her on the mouth. When she started speaking up against Cuomo’s behavior, her superiors reprimanded her. Boylan also posted screenshots of various text messages and emails documenting the harassment.
After Boylan’s revelation, Charlotte Bennett, who was the health policy advisor in Cuomo’s administration until November last year, came forward with accusations that the governor had asked her inappropriate questions. The 25-year-old said that Cuomo, 63, told her that he was open to having relationships with younger women and asked whether she had sexual relations with older men.
Initially, Cuomo denied the allegations, saying that he never made advances against Bennett and intended to mentor her himself. Later on, the governor admitted that some of his staff’s behavior might have been insensitive and that his comments may have been “misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.” Cuomo stated that he did tease people about their personal lives and relationships, including marriage, only to add “levity” to the workplace.
Following the allegations, Cuomo’s office released a statement asking New York Attorney General Letitia James and chief judge of New York’s Court of Appeals Janet DiFiore to appoint an independent lawyer to investigate the matter and issue a public report. James announced that she had not accepted the suggestion.
“To clarify, I do not accept the governor’s proposal. The state’s Executive Law clearly gives my office the authority to investigate this matter once the governor provides a referral. 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, per Executive Law,” James said in a statement.
A third sexual harassment allegation has surfaced against Governor Cuomo. A woman named Anna Ruch revealed to The New York Times that Cuomo had made an unwanted advance at her during a wedding in 2019. She had approached the governor for a photo when he placed his hands on her exposed lower back.
Ruch’s friend confirmed the incident in an interview with CNN. She said that Cuomo put both his hands on Ruch’s cheeks and asked her whether he could kiss her. Even though Ruch did not answer in the affirmative, Cuomo proceeded to kiss her on the cheek. Ruch said she was embarrassed and shocked at the governor’s brazen behavior.
Calls for Cuomo’s resignation
Many were already calling for Cuomo’s resignation after the nursing home death fiasco came to light. With now three sexual harassment charges against him, this has only intensified.
Democrat Senator Alexandra Biaggi from New York, the Chair of Senate Ethics and Internal Governance Committee, accused Cuomo of creating a hostile work environment and called for his immediate resignation. Biaggi was one of the 14 Democrats who had earlier called for Cuomo to be stripped of expanded pandemic emergency powers in the wake of the nursing home death scandal.
Democrat Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou is also demanding Cuomo’s resignation, accusing him of being manipulative, abusive, predatory, and power-obsessed. Democrat Senator Andrew Gounardes called for an independent investigation, calling Cuomo’s behavior “unacceptable.”