At his first press conference since three women accused him of unwanted sexual advances, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo apologized while insisting he didn’t know his alleged actions—grabbing a woman’s face, bringing up an aide’s sexual assault, giving an aide a kiss on the cheek—made people uncomfortable.
“I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable. And if I did, I apologize for it. But let’s let the attorney general’s office decide the facts,” he said Wednesday, adding that he has no plans to resign.
Cuomo discussed the most recent allegation, from former Biden campaign worker Anna Ruch, who said that the governor had grabbed her face and asked to kiss her shortly after they met at a 2019 wedding. She provided a picture and texts to corroborate her story.
He said the face-grabbing and kissing-on-the-cheek was a greeting habit he picked up from his father, former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, who served from 1983 to 1994.
“You can find hundreds of pictures of me making this gesture,” Gov. Cuomo says. “It was my father’s way of greeting people. You’re the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable.”
“But it doesn’t matter,” he continued. “It doesn’t matter my intent. What matters is whether anybody was offended by it. I could intend no offense but if they were offended by it it was wrong."
Beyond that, however, the governor was short on specifics. When asked by a reporter whom specifically he was apologizing to, Cuomo did not provide a name.
“I am apologizing to the young woman who worked here who said I made her feel uncomfortable in the workplace,” Cuomo said. “I’m embarrassed that someone felt that way in my administration.”
Two aides, Lindsay Boylan and Charlotte Bennett, both came forward in February describing repeated propositions from the governor. Boylan wrote in a Medium post that she resigned after Cuomo gave her an unwanted kiss on the lips; Bennett told The New York Times that Cuomo repeatedly brought up a past sexual assault of hers.
Following news of Bennett and Ruch’s allegations, some Democratic lawmakers have called on Cuomo to resign, including one member of Congress, Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY).
Cuomo, however, said Wednesday he didn’t plan on resigning, with no mention of whether or not he would run for a fourth term in 2022, as he has previously said he would do.
In a statement following Wednesday’s news conference, Bennett’s lawyer Debra Katz—who also represented Dr. Christine Blasey Ford after she alleged she was sexually assaulted by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh—wrote that Cuomo lied.
“My client... reported his sexually harassing behavior immediately to his Chief of Staff and Chief Counsel. We are confident that they made him aware of her complaint,” Katz wrote. “We fully expect that the Attorney General’s investigation will demonstrate that Cuomo administration officials failed to act on Ms. Bennett’s serious allegations.”
She pointed to reporting from Politico on Wednesday, detailing how two Cuomo aides—senior adviser Gareth Rhodes and deputy press secretary Will Burns—had resigned in the wake of the scandal.
“As reports are emerging of other staff resigning from the Governor’s office in the wake of his scandals, the people charged with helping him execute the duties of his office are once again bearing the consequences of his actions,” Katz wrote. “If they know anything or have experienced this themselves, we call on them to come forward and report this misconduct.”
Boylan also expressed her frustration with Cuomo on Twitter, shortly after the conference.
“How can New Yorkers trust you @NYGovCuomo to lead our state if you ‘don’t know’ when you’ve been inappropriate with your own staff?” she wrote.