Moments after the New York Attorney General’s office released its bombshell report finding that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had broken the law by sexually harassing multiple staffers, Cuomo responded with an unusual defense. In a pre-recorded statement, he showed a montage of photos of him kissing and hugging dozens of people, and said that allegations of unwanted kissing, touching and inappropriate comments sought to “unfairly characterize and weaponize everyday interactions that I’ve had with any number of New Yorkers.” An 85-page rebuttal to each allegation, written by Cuomo’s attorney, also included dozens of photos of politicians like President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris hugging people and touching their faces.
In his video statement, Cuomo specifically raised one allegation from Anna Ruch, who told The New York Times earlier this year that Cuomo put his hand on her bare lower back after meeting her at a 2019 wedding. An excruciatingly awkward photo showed Cuomo grabbing Ruch’s face with his hands, and she says he asked to kiss her. “I’ve been making the same public gesture all my life. I actually learnt it from my mother and my father,” Cuomo claimed. “It is meant to convey warmth, nothing more... I do it with everyone.” The attorney general’s report found that Cuomo oversaw a toxic workplace in which sexual harassment was routine and unwanted flirtation was normalized.