Disgraced former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo justified any touching or appearance of prying into executive assistant Brittany Commisso’s private life by suggesting that she was often the “initiator” of their embraces, and a “gossip hotline,” who frequently aired juicy commentary, according to sworn testimony released by the state’s top prosecutor on Wednesday.
When asked if he had been flirtatious with Commisso, who described the job as a “nightmare” and filed a criminal complaint in August, Cuomo told investigators from the New York Attorney General’s Office that he responded to her “flirtatious” demeanor with warmth.
“I was --- I would say I was warm back,” Cuomo said during a lengthy grilling in July, after noting that Commisso was both “entertaining” and “a bit of a character,” who had provided support to him at the mansion from time to time, including on weekends.
When asked if he had ever chatted with Commisso about her personal life, including her divorce, Cuomo appeared to suggest that he had not solicited information from that she had not volunteered herself, saying: “She was a chatty person. So she was -- would always be chatting about everybody’s personal life. She was like a gossip hotline who -- because she lived in Albany and she was from the Albany government crowd.”
The exchange came during a roughly 11-hour interview between Cuomo and investigators that was transcribed and included in a document drop by the New York State attorney general’s office on Wednesday. The 515-page transcript of sworn testimony was released alongside a trove of other transcripts and exhibits following the independent investigation into claims of sexual harassment and inappropriate workplace conduct.
Commisso’s accusations of increasingly inappropriate advances included Cuomo sneaking his hand down to her butt and rubbing it, during an embrace for a selfie that he suggested they take together on New Year’s Eve in 2019.
She said during a CBS interview in August, that Cuomo’s harassment came to a crescendo when he allegedly lured her into the executive mansion in November 2020 to help him with phone trouble before hugging her in a “sexually aggressive manner” and groping her breast. Cuomo is facing a misdemeanor criminal charge for forcible touching over the incident.
In sworn testimony released on Wednesday, Cuomo appeared to defend any hugs he shared with Commisso, referring again to an affectionate nature on her part, and suggesting that he was “more in the reciprocal business” of returning an embrace from Commisso who he described as a “tight hugger.”
“She was very affectionate,” Cuomo said. “I would say more she was the initiator of the hugs.”
He later said that he “may have hugged her on the lower back,” but denied the possibility that he had touched her butt.
“I have no recollection of touching a woman on her butt,” Cuomo said. “May it have happened accidentally? Incidentally? Yes. But I don’t have any recollection of purposefully touching a woman on the butt.”
His lawyer, Rita Glavin, interjected at times to needle at definitions for potentially sensitive and inappropriate parts of the body—at one point even asking for clarification about what near the rear end might include.
After Cuomo insisted that he didn’t remember touching any woman on the butt, and the investigator asked him to clarify whether that included any areas “near the butt,” Glavin drilled down: “Could you define near the butt?”
“Do you understand where a human’s butt is? And anywhere near there?” the investigator then asked.
“Well, near the butt now becomes an expansive area,” she replied.
The Albany district attorney has blasted the misdemeanor sex crime complaint filed against Cuomo as “potentially defective” because Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple “unilaterally and inexplicably” filed it while the DA’s own investigation was still active.
Cuomo’s words appeared to take on a particular heated tenor when asked about the encounter with Commisso. He appeared to bristle at the allegation that he would have touched her and suggested that he didn’t care if anyone saw, telling investigators brusquely that there needed to be “a little reality,” about the claims which he alleged “never happened.”
“I am 63 years old. I have been in every public office, state, federal,” Cuomo said. “Numerous people have tried to set me up. I'm always wary of people. I have phenomenal precautions.”
In a statement criticizing the rolling release of documents on Wednesday, Glavin insisted that James wanted to “prejudice” people against Cuomo.
“The AG wants to prejudice people against the Governor while the criminal charge unilaterally initiated by Sheriff Apple is pending, and distract from the AG’s misleading and unreliable report,” Glavin said. “The Attorney General deliberately harms a pending case by broadcasting to each witness what other witnesses have testified to, and spreading false and salacious hearsay and rumors. No legitimate law enforcement officer acts like this in a pending case. Disturbingly, this has never been about fairness or due process.”