UPDATE—August 3, 2021, 5 p.m.: President Joe Biden has called on New York governor Andrew Cuomo to resign in the wake of an independent report shared on August 3 that found Cuomo had harassed almost a dozen women. Asked by a reporter whether the governor should resign, Biden answered simply, “Yes.”
UPDATE—August 3, 2021, 1:30 p.m.: New York governor Andrew Cuomo verbally and physically harassed women including government employees, according to an independent months-long investigation from the state’s attorney general, Letitia James. At a press conference on Tuesday, James said that independent investigators found that Cuomo broke state and federal laws. In one case, James says, the governor and his aides retaliated against an accuser. Eleven women are accusing the governor of inappropriate behavior.
On Tuesday, the governor gave an address categorically denying the findings of the report. “The facts are much different than what has been portrayed,” he says in the video address. “I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.” At one point he played a slideshow featuring photos of himself kissing people on the cheek in public, saying, “I do it with everyone—Black and white, young and old, straight and LGBTQ, powerful people, friends, strangers, people who I meet on the street.” During each clause, a photo flashed of the governor with his face pressed up to a person who matched his description.
After Cuomo’s remarks, New York senators Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand issued a statement reiterating their call for the governor to resign.
ORIGINAL POST—March 15: Major Democratic leaders from New York are calling for Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign after several women, including former employees, say he sexually harassed them.
In a press conference on Friday, March 12, the governor once again denied the allegations and said that he would not resign. “I never harassed anyone, I never assaulted anyone, I never abused anyone,” he said. “To the extent you get these people who say, ‘He took a picture with me and it was uncomfortable,’ I apologize.”
The once celebrated governor urged the public to wait to “learn the facts.” He decried the idea of “bowing to cancel culture” and even seemed to suggest that some of the accusers could have political agendas. “I can tell you as a former attorney general who has gone through this situation many times—there are often many motivations for making an allegation,” he said.
But as a seventh woman has come forward accusing the governor of inappropriate sexual behavior, Democratic heavyweights from his own state, including U.S. representatives Jerry Nadler, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Sean Patrick Maloney, have called for him to step down.
The women who have come forward have detailed allegations of sexual harassment they say they experienced at the hands of the governor. The accusers include several women who worked for the governor.
The governor has denied all claims of inappropriate behavior.
“It’s just not true,” Cuomo said when Lindsey Boylan became the first woman to accuse him in December. And in a statement to The New York Times in February, he said that he “never made advances” toward Charlotte Bennett, another accuser, adding, “nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate.” And in the latest press conference, he maintained his claim that he has never had an inappropriate sexual relationship with anyone.
“Let the review proceed,” he said, referring to the independent review of the allegations. “I’m not going to resign.”
The New York governor attained national fame last spring as the virus that would kill half a million Americans ripped through his state. Though many lauded him for his leadership and declared themselves, unbelievably, “Cuomosexuals” on social media, recent reporting has revealed troubling reports about the governor’s COVID response. New York attorney general Letitia James reported in January that the Cuomo administration undercounted nursing home COVID deaths by the thousands. And in February a top aide to the governor, Melissa DeRosa, told New York lawmakers that the governor’s office delayed reports of deaths from COVID in New York nursing homes out of fear that it “was going to be used against us,” suggesting that the numbers were not announced in order to avoid a confrontation with the Trump administration. Cuomo has acknowledged that the delay was a “mistake” but denied that he suppressed the numbers on purpose.
Both the sexual harassment allegations and the COVID death-count scandal come as the New York gubernatorial race begins in earnest—Cuomo is expected to seek a fourth term as governor and is up for reelection in 2022.
After the first two women’s allegations gained increasing attention in the media, the governor’s office put out another statement. Cuomo acknowledged that “my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal” and that “some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as unwanted flirtation.” But he defended himself, writing, “At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny,” adding, “You have seen me do it at briefings hundreds of times.” He denied accusations of inappropriate touch and of propositioning sex, and called for an outside, independent review of the accusations.
What does Lindsey Boylan, the first accuser, say happened?
“Yes, Governor Cuomo sexually harassed me for years,” Lindsey Boylan wrote on Twitter in December. “And I know I am not the only woman.” In late February she detailed the alleged harassment in a lengthy post on Medium, writing that the governor asked her to play strip poker at work and, once, forcibly kissed her.
In her Medium essay, Boylan writes that in 2016 after she started working for New York State, her boss told her that Cuomo had a “crush” on her. She provides screenshots from a 2016 email from another woman in Cuomo’s administration, in which the woman claimed that Cuomo had compared Boylan to his rumored ex-girlfriend, and said that Boylan was “better looking.” Boylan also writes that Cuomo started calling her by his rumored ex-girlfriend’s first name at work, and that “the governor would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms, and legs.”
On a 2017 work trip, she writes, the governor asked her to play strip poker. In 2018, Boylan was promoted to deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to the governor—she writes she turned the job down until she was able to ensure keeping an office that was physically distant from Cuomo’s. During a one-on-one meeting while she was in that role, she wrote, he suddenly kissed her without her consent. “Governor Andrew Cuomo has created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected,” Boylan writes.
What about Charlotte Bennett, the second accuser?
In late February, a second former aide, Charlotte Bennett, came forward with more claims of harassment. She told The New York Times that last summer, when she worked as an executive assistant and health policy adviser to the governor, Cuomo repeatedly asked her inappropriate sexual questions, including about sex with older men. “I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” she said.
Bennett, who was 25, told the Times that when Cuomo was her boss last summer, he would get her in one-on-ones and ask her personal questions about her dating life, specifically about dating older men. She said a week after an uncomfortable conversation with the governor about hugging, she told chief of staff Jill DesRosiers and was transferred to a faraway office. She shared messages with the Times that she had sent to her parents and friends while she worked for Cuomo, complaining of the harassment.
Bennett and her mother had thought that the governor was taking on the role of a mentor. But after she shared with him that she was a survivor of sexual assault, she said, he spoke about it in a deeply uncomfortable way. Later, she said, he started asking her questions about having sex with older men. She shared texts she’d sent to friends at the time, detailing these conversations. The governor, she said, asked her if she would date older men and encouraged her to get a tattoo on her butt. Disturbingly, the bulk of the harassment she says she experienced from Cuomo took place during the height of New York’s COVID outbreak—the time when the governor was receiving near-constant praise.
What about Anna Ruch, the third accuser?
On March 1, The New York Times reported that a woman named Anna Ruch said that she was a guest at a wedding that Cuomo attended in 2019, and that he tried to kiss her without her consent. Ruch, who, unlike the two other women, has never worked for Cuomo, described approaching the governor and thanking him for his speech, and then being uncomfortable when he placed his hand on her bare lower back. She said she removed his hand and that he called her “aggressive,” moving his hand to her cheeks. “Can I kiss you?” he asked, according to Ruch. She said she didn’t respond and pulled away in shock. “I was so confused and shocked and embarrassed,” she said. A friend later told her that Cuomo had kissed her on the cheek. “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.”
In a rare occurrence for a harassment accusation, Ruch was actually able to provide a photograph of the moment—she shared a picture with the Times that another wedding attendee had snapped of the governor with his hands on her face and her, apparently, shrinking away. “I felt so uncomfortable and embarrassed when really he is the one who should have been embarrassed,” she said.
What about the fourth accuser, Ana Liss?
Liss was a Cuomo aide between 2013 and 2015. In a report published in the first week of March, she told The Wall Street Journal that during her work hours, the governor spoke to her and touched her inappropriately—she says he called her “sweetheart,” touched her lower back, kissed her hand, and asked her questions about her dating life. She told New York magazine that, working in Cuomo’s office, she found herself in such despair over her own abilities that she called a suicide hotline. He called her names like “blondie” and “sweetheart,” and was told by a longtime Cuomo employee, “He thinks you’re cute; the governor likes you.”
What about the fifth accuser, Karen Hinton?
Hinton worked as a press aide to Cuomo in 2000, when he headed up the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She told The Washington Post that after a professional event, he called her up to his hotel room and put his arms around her. She told the Post that “she pulled away from Cuomo, but he pulled her back toward his body, holding her before she backed away and left the room.” Two of Hinton’s friends told the Post that they remembered her telling them the story in the immediate aftermath. “Karen Hinton is a known antagonist of the governor’s who is attempting to take advantage of this moment to score cheap points with made up allegations from 21 years ago,” Cuomo’s communications director told the Post.
Who is the sixth accuser?
She’s an anonymous former aide who, according to the Times Union of Albany, said that the governor summoned her to the executive mansion in late 2020 for a professional meeting and then touched her inappropriately. The Times Union writes that “the woman’s supervisors recently became aware of the allegation and alerted the governor’s counsel of it.”
Who is the newest accuser?
A woman identified only as Kaitlin told New York magazine that she met the governor at a fundraiser where she was working for a lobbying firm. She says that while they were talking he grabbed her uncomfortably, ostensibly for a picture. She says that the next week, Cuomo’s office tracked her down, asking her to interview for a job, though she had barely spoken to the governor. She said that after she got the job, the governor made comments about her appearance and clothing, stood uncomfortably close to her, and asked her to bend over to help him with things in a way that felt suggestive.
Are there other women?
A few woman journalists have said publicly that they have been treated inappropriately by the governor. In an essay for The Cut, political reporter Jessica Bakeman wrote, “Andrew Cuomo’s hands had been on my body—on my arms, my shoulders, the small of my back, my waist—often enough by late 2014 that I didn’t want to go to the holiday party he was hosting for the Albany press corps at the executive mansion.”
Describing several instances in which she says the governor touched her or spoke to her inappropriately, she wrote, “I never thought the governor wanted to have sex with me. It wasn’t about sex. It was about power. He wanted me to know that I was powerless, that I was small and weak, that I did not deserve what relative power I had: a platform to hold him accountable for his words and actions. He wanted me to know that he could take my dignity away at any moment with an inappropriate comment or a hand on my waist.” According to The Cut, the Cuomo administration refused to comment on Bakeman’s story.
Camonghne Felix was hired as a speechwriter for Cuomo in 2015—she was the first Black woman in that role. (Felix has written for Glamour.) She told New York that her work for the governor felt like “a very subtle form of racialized abuse. You know I am beneficial to you. I fill a quota. It looks good on paper, and we made sure to put press releases out. But you don’t intend to incorporate me into government. You just like to show me to people.”
What’s going to happen next?
Cuomo has denied all allegations of sexual harassment and physical assault, but put out a statement apologizing for making anyone feel uncomfortable, writing that, “I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended.”
After denying Boylan’s claims in December and Bennett’s claims in February, the governor suggested that a former federal judge should conduct a review of Boylan’s and Bennett’s claims. After other leaders slammed this idea, Cuomo’s office announced that it would ask Attorney General Letitia James and the chief judge of the court of appeals to select an “independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation” to conduct the investigation. James responded in the negative, saying that the situation requires a “truly independent investigation,” one that would allow her to subpoena witnesses and documents, which is beyond what the governor’s office had called for. Finally, on February 28, the governor’s office put out a statement, saying that James should choose a special independent deputy attorney general to investigate the claims.
Bennett rejected Cuomo’s semi-apology in a strong statement to The New York Times, saying that the governor “has refused to acknowledge or take responsibility for his predatory behavior.” She added, “It took the governor 24 hours and significant backlash to allow for a truly independent investigation. These are not the actions of someone who simply feels misunderstood; they are the actions of an individual who wields his power to avoid justice.”
What are other lawmakers saying?
As of Friday, March 12, more than half of New York’s congresspeople have called for the governor to resign. That large group includes prominent members House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, one of the most powerful Democrats in office, weighed in on the allegations in late February. “The women who have come forward with serious and credible charges against Governor Cuomo deserve to be heard and to be treated with dignity,” she said in a statement to Fox News. “The independent investigation must have due process and respect for everyone involved.” New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand said the allegations are “serious and deeply concerning,” and called for a full, independent investigation. The White House has responded too. Press secretary Jen Psaki, told CNN that President Biden supports “an independent review” of the accusations, and that both women “should be treated with respect and dignity.”
Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour. You can follow her on Twitter.