When New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited Rochester to survey flood damage in May 2017, one of his staffers asked resident Sherry Vill if he could visit her house.
Lake Ontario’s rising water levels had flooded homes on Vill’s street in the suburb of Greece, and her family agreed to let the governor inside.
But shortly after he arrived, Cuomo allegedly pulled Vill toward him and grabbed her face to kiss both her cheeks—a moment captured on video by her son, who posted a still image on Facebook. Cuomo also allegedly told Vill she was beautiful.
“I felt that he was coming on to me in my own home,” Vill said on Monday, during a press conference with attorney Gloria Allred.
A 55-year-old mother and grandmother, Vill said she thought Cuomo was going to pet the dog she was holding in her arms but instead kissed her “in a highly sexual manner.”
“I felt like I was being manhandled,” she said.
Vill is the tenth woman to speak out about the embattled Democrat’s alleged pattern of inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment.
After the press conference, Vill deactivated her Facebook account, which had conservative posts supporting former President Trump and bashing NFL players who in 2017 took a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality. (Twitter users also pointed out that Vill’s posts about Cuomo’s visit seemed positive at the time, with post concluding, “Thank you governor!”)
One August 2017 post said, “Look what the governor sent me in the mail…” and included photos of Cuomo’s visit and his letter to her.
In early March, an anonymous Twitter user tagged Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce, saying: “My friend and neighbor Sherry Vill was inappropriately kissed several times by Gov Cuomo at different times that day and he pursued her afterwards by his office calling her to invite her to his other functions. She was nervous and embarrassed and did not like it.” Bruce and Allred ran in the same circles in the 1990s, when they both worked with the Nicole Brown Simpson family. (Allred said Bruce did not refer Vill or help her get in contact with the famed women's rights lawyer.)
The latest accusations come as the 63-year-old governor faces a Department of Justice inquiry into the state’s data on COVID nursing home deaths; a New York Attorney General investigation into the sexual harassment accusations; and mounting pressure to resign amid an impeachment probe, which will also examine reports that Cuomo gave his family VIP access to coronavirus tests when they were in short supply.
In recent months, multiple women have accused Cuomo of harassment or inappropriate conduct, including current staffer Alyssa McGrath, who said the governor looked down her shirt during one meeting, called her beautiful in Italian on another occasion, and kissed her forehead at an office Christmas party in 2019.
One unidentified woman said Cuomo inappropriately touched her during an incident at the governor’s mansion last year. According to the Albany Times-Union, the aide said Cuomo summoned her to the mansion to help him with a mobile phone issue, shut the door, and groped her under her blouse. The woman's claims were referred to Albany police, who said the encounter may rise “to the level of a crime.”
For his part, Cuomo claimed he has “never touched anyone inappropriately” or “made any inappropriate advances.” He dismissed calls for him to step down as “cancel culture.”
Allred said that Vill wanted to report Cuomo’s advances but some of her relatives discouraged her from filing any complaints, fearing the governor would retaliate against her and her family.
“Women like Sherry will no longer be silent,” Allred said on Monday. “They will refuse to be intimidated by powerful men.”
According to Vill, after Cuomo kissed her, she felt uncomfortable and didn’t follow him and his staff outside to review the damages to her home.
After the kiss, Cuomo allegedly said, “I’m Italian, family members kiss.”
“Strangers do not kiss,” Vill said on Monday, “Especially upon meeting someone for the first time.”
After the visit, Vill said, her neighbors and customers of her business joked that she was “the governor’s new girlfriend.”
Vill said one of Cuomo’s aides called her and invited her to an event in town; the staffer didn’t invite Vill’s husband or her other relatives, so she didn’t respond.
Months later, Cuomo also sent her a letter thanking her for her “hospitality.”
“The whole thing was so strange and inappropriate and still makes me nervous and afraid because of his power and position,” she said, adding, “I never felt as uncomfortable as I did the day that Gov. Cuomo came to my home. His actions were overly sexual and disrespectful to me and my family.”
The claims against Cuomo began picking up steam in December, when President Joe Biden was reportedly considering him as a candidate for U.S. attorney general. Former aide Lindsey Boylan, 36, posted a Twitter thread describing the governor’s office as “beyond toxic” and claiming many others who worked under him had similar horror stories: “It’s a whole book of people who have been harmed.”
Days later, Boylan accused Cuomo of sexual harassment, saying he’d been inappropriate toward her for years and “no one would do a damn thing even when they saw it.”
“And I *know* I am not the only woman,” added Boylan, who from 2015 to 2018 was the former deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to Cuomo. She is now a candidate for Manhattan borough president.
In response, a spokesperson for Cuomo said, “There is simply no truth to these claims.”
But in February, Boylan published an essay claiming Cuomo kissed her in 2018 during a one-on-one briefing at his New York City office; went “out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs”; and suggested, in the presence of other staff during a 2017 taxpayer-funded flight, that they play “strip poker.”
“It was all so normalized—particularly by [Cuomo’s secretary] Melissa DeRosa and other top women around him—that only now do I realize how insidious his abuse was,” Boylan wrote. She said that soon after she started her job, her boss told her Cuomo had a “crush” on her.
Boylan’s accusations arrived as Cuomo also faced a reckoning over his handling of nursing homes and long-term care facilities during COVID; the governor's aides allegedly altered a public report to undercount the death toll by 50 percent.
Since Boylan came forward, multiple other women have said Cuomo harassed them.
A second former aide, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett, said the governor asked her questions about her sex life and suggested he would date women in their 20s. The conversation occurred in June of last year when Bennett was alone with Cuomo at his Albany office.
“He asked me if I believed if age made a difference in relationships and he also asked me in the same conversation if I had ever been with an older man,” Bennett told The New York Times, adding: “I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared. And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”
In response, Cuomo released a statement apologizing for what he called “playful” banter: “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent that anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.”
Anna Ruch, a former Biden campaign staffer, said the governor touched her lower back and tried to kiss her at a wedding in 2019—a moment that was captured in a photo. The 33-year-old said Cuomo put his hands on her cheeks and asked, “Can I kiss you?”
Meanwhile, former aide Ana Liss said Cuomo asked if she had a boyfriend, kissed her hand, and at one 2014 reception at the executive mansion in Albany, the governor hugged her, kissed both of her cheeks, and wrapped his arms around her.
Liss, 35, told the Wall Street Journal that Cuomo’s behavior reduced her to “just a skirt” rather than a professional. “It’s not appropriate, really, in any setting,” Liss said.
Karen Hinton, a former press aide to Cuomo, told the Washington Post that he called her to his hotel room after a work event in 2000 and gave her an uncomfortable hug.
She described the embrace as “very long, too long, too tight, too intimate.” At the time, Hinton was 42 and about the same age as Cuomo. She said she pulled away and he hugged her again. “I thought at that moment it could lead to a kiss, it could lead to other things, so I just pull away again, and I leave,” Hinton said.
As The Daily Beast previously reported, multiple female journalists also said they encountered creepy behavior from Cuomo. Bloomberg reporter Valerie Bauman said the governor stared at her during a press conference and rushed over to introduce himself to her afterward. One of Cuomo’s aides later called Bauman, she said, and asked if she’d ever be interested in a job in the governor’s office.
Jessica Bakeman, a former reporter for what’s now Politico New York, wrote an essay for New York magazine describing Cuomo’s alleged grabbiness. She said he’d touched her arms, her shoulders, and her waist on several occasions.
“In the course of my reporting, Cuomo never let me forget I was a woman,” Bakeman wrote.
With additional reporting by Will Bredderman