A third woman has come forward to publicly accuse New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexually harassing her—and there’s a picture to back her up.
Anna Ruch, who worked on the Biden campaign, told The New York Times that Cuomo put his hand on her bare lower back within moments of being introduced at a wedding in 2019.
“I promptly removed his hand with my hand, which I would have thought was a clear enough indicator that I was not wanting him to touch me,” she told the paper.
By her account, Cuomo called her “aggressive” and placed his hands on her cheeks.
“He said, ‘Can I kiss you?’” Ruch recalled.
“I was so confused and shocked and embarrassed,” Ruch told the Times, which said her account was corroborated by the friend and photographs that show the governor clasping her face.
“I turned my head away and didn’t have words in that moment.”
Ruch’s account adds a new dimension to the political crisis Cuomo is facing.
In a statement on Sunday, he half-apologized for his behavior in a statement, saying women had “misinterpreted” his “playful” banter, which he admitted could be “too personal.”
But calls for his resignation are mounting; a former ally, Rep. Kathleen Rice of Long Island, tweeted Monday night that he should step down. “The time has come,” she wrote, with a link to Ruch’s account.
Earlier in the day, Cuomo formally made the referral that will allow state Attorney General Tish James to investigate sexual harassment allegations made by ex-aides Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett.
Boylan, a current candidate for Manhattan borough president, wrote last week that Cuomo gave her a nonconsensual kiss after years of sexual advances.
Bennett, a former health aide, said Cuomo repeatedly asked her if she’d be interested in a sexual relationship with an older man and whether she was monogamous in relationships.
“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett said in an interview with the Times. “And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”
In a Monday night tweet, Bennett expressed solidarity with Ruch.
“Anna — I hear you, I see you. I’m so sorry. His inappropriate and aggressive behavior cannot be justified or normalized. Thank you for your courage and strength. Here for you always,” she said.
And Boylan tweeted: “This doesn’t make me feel validated. It makes me feel sick. I feel nauseous thinking about Anna’s experience. I am sending her love and light.”
Some Democratic state legislators, including state Assembly members Ron Kim and Yuh-Line Niou, have also called on Cuomo to resign amid the sexual misconduct accusations, as well as alleged mishandling of the state’s nursing homes and their death tolls during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Others, such as state Sen. Jessica Ramos, said Cuomo should be stripped of his emergency powers as governor until the conclusion of the investigation, in the wake of the Times’ report on Monday evening.
Cuomo did not immediately comment on Ruch’s claims, with his office pointing instead to his earlier statement, in which he said that he treated members of his staff like family and that his attempts at humor and collegiality had been misconstrued as flirtation.
But Ruch is not a member of Cuomo’s staff. And she said she was stunned by Cuomo’s advances in such a public forum after she indicated they were not wanted.
“It’s the act of impunity that strikes me,” she said. “I didn’t have a choice in that matter. I didn’t have a choice in his physical dominance over me at that moment. And that’s what infuriates me. And even with what I could do, removing his hand from my lower back, even doing that was not clear enough.”