A second former aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has accused him of sexual harassment.
Charlotte Bennett, 25, a former executive assistant and health policy adviser in the administration, told The New York Times that Cuomo had asked her multiple questions about her sex life and relationships, including whether she had ever slept with an older man and whether she was romantically involved with other staff members, when the two were alone in his office in June 2020. She said he said he was open to a relationship with a woman in her 20s and had been looking for a girlfriend in Albany.
“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” she said, adding that she “assumed it was the end of my job.” She reported the incident to his chief of staff and gave a statement about the incident to a special counsel’s office, after which, she said, she was transferred to a job on the other side of the Capitol building from the governor. Her parents and friends confirmed to the Times that she mentioned the conversation with Cuomo in subsequent days.
Cuomo told the Times he had been acting as a mentor to Bennett and that she had opened up to him about being a survivor of sexual assault. He did not deny asking her personal questions.
“I never made advances toward Ms. Bennett, nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate,” he said. “This situation cannot and should not be resolved in the press. I believe the best way to get to the truth is through a full and thorough outside review and I am directing all state employees to comply with that effort.”
Barbara Jones, a former judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, will lead a review of the matter.
Beth Garvey, a special counsel to the governor, said Bennett “was consulted regarding the resolution, and expressed satisfaction and appreciation for the way in which it was handled.”
“There are no limits on the scope of Judge Jones’ review,” Garvey said.
“Ms. Bennett received the transfer she requested to a position in which she had expressed a long-standing interest, and was thoroughly debriefed on the facts which did not include a claim of physical contact or inappropriate sexual conduct,” Garvey added.
Bennett’s allegations come shortly after another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, said Cuomo had repeatedly “harassed [me] about my looks” and that the conduct continued “for years,” at one point leaving her in “shock” after the governor allegedly subjected her to an unsolicited kiss. A spokesperson for Cuomo said of Boylan's allegations, “There is simply no truth to these claims.”
The harassment allegations are not the only scandal beguiling Cuomo. His handling of nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic has caused considerable political fallout after he wrote a victory lap book titled American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic. An aide said his administration intentionally underreported the deaths of nursing home residents from COVID-19 for fear of prosecution and political backlash.
Cuomo has responded in strongman fashion to the critiques of his administration. New York Assemblyman Ron Kim said that Cuomo threatened to “destroy” him after Kim called for an investigation into the nursing home death tally. His enemies, smelling blood in the water, have dumped a decade’s worth of resentment into their bitter criticism of his style of rule-by-fear politics.