Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily COVID-19 press conferences were considered “must watch” daytime television around this time last year, with New Yorkers across the state finding comfort in his PowerPoint presentations at the height of the pandemic.
But after three women came forward to accuse the governor of sexual harassment, he slid into hiding for more than a week, skipping three of his scheduled press briefings.
For the first time on Wednesday, Cuomo stepped back in front of the cameras, finally publicly addressing these sexual harassment allegations.
He issued a rare apology and asked New Yorkers to wait on forming an opinion until the Attorney General Letitia James finishes her investigation.
Yet Cuomo made one thing very clear: He will not be resigning.
“I now understand I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” Cuomo said, looking straight at the camera. “It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly, I am embarrassed.”
Three women have come out to accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment in less than a week.
One former aide, Lindsey Boylan, says Cuomo made inappropriate comments about her appearance and kissed her on the lips without her consent.
Another former aide, Charlotte Bennett, says Cuomo questioned her repeatedly about her sex life, asking if she would be open to dating older men.
And most recently, a woman Anna Ruch says Cuomo grabbed her face and kissed her on the cheek without her consent. She shared a photo of this interaction with The New York Times.
Cuomo has denied most of these allegations and claimed he never realized that his actions made people feel uncomfortable.
“I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone,” Cuomo said. “I never intended it. And I will be the better for this experience."
However, this explanation and apology fell flat with Bennett and Boylan.
Bennett’s lawyer, Debra Katz, issued a statement soon after the governor’s press conference, calling it “full of falsehoods and inaccurate information.”
Katz continued, “The governor repeatedly said he never touched anyone inappropriately. Ms. Ruch’s story makes clear that’s not accurate. The governor repeatedly said he had no idea he made anyone uncomfortable. My client, Charlotte Bennett, 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, and we fully expect that the attorney general’s investigation will demonstrate that Cuomo administration officials failed to act on Ms. Bennett’s serious allegations or to ensure that corrective measures were taken, in violation of their legal requirements.”
Boylan tweeted shortly after the press 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?”
Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt called the governor’s speech a performance.
“It was a performance worthy of an Emmy,” Ortt said. “But I don’t know what is in someone’s heart. What I know is this: There is an investigation ongoing in the attorney general’s office and no amount of apologies is going to change that investigation from moving forward.”
Numerous Democratic lawmakers also did not accept the governor’s apology, and many have continued to push for his resignation.
However on CNN, State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins made it clear she will be waiting for the attorney general to finish her investigation before she makes a final judgment call on these allegations.
"An apology is a beginning, but there has to be an end to any sort of behavior like that," Stewart-Cousins said.