State Watch

Second former aide accuses Cuomo of sexual harassment

A second former aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) came forward with allegations of sexual harassment, including that the elected official asked her personal questions about her sex life. 

Charlotte Bennett, 25, told The New York Times in an interview published Saturday that Cuomo harassed her late last spring as the state became a hot spot in the first months of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Bennett, who was an executive assistant and health policy adviser in the Cuomo administration until she resigned in November, told the Times that in one instance in early June, she was alone with the governor and he allegedly asked her several personal questions, including if she thought age was relevant in romantic relationships. 

The former aide added that Cuomo, 63, told her he was open to relationships with women in their 20s. 

Bennett said the governor then said he was experiencing loneliness during the pandemic, adding that he “can’t even hug anyone” before looking at Bennett and asking, “Who did I last hug?”

The Times reported that upon Bennett responding that she missed hugging her parents, Cuomo responded, “No, I mean like really hugged somebody?”

“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett told the Times. “And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”

Bennett added that while Cuomo never attempted to touch her, she disclosed the June encounter to Cuomo’s chief of staff, Jill DesRosiers, and then was transferred to her role as a health policy adviser. 

Cuomo said in a public statement Saturday that he had intended to serve as a mentor to Bennett, adding that he “never made advances” toward her, “nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate.” 

“The last thing I would ever have wanted was to make her feel any of the things that are being reported,” the governor said. 

“Ms. Bennett was a hardworking and valued member of our team during COVID,” Cuomo wrote, adding, “She has every right to speak out.” 

“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,” he said.

Cuomo continued, “I ask all New Yorkers to await the findings of the review so that they know the facts before making any judgments,” before stating that he has “no further comment until the review has concluded.” 

The allegations come days after former aide Lindsey Boylan accused the governor of kissing her without her consent and making inappropriate remarks while she worked in his office.

Cuomo’s office denied the account of the incident Boylan described in a Medium post. 

Boylan, who is a candidate for Manhattan borough president, alleged in the post that Cuomo suggested the two of them “play strip poker” on an October 2017 flight.

She also said another aide emailed her that Cuomo thought she resembled his rumored ex-girlfriend Lisa Shields, saying they “could be sisters,” with Boylan as “the better-looking sister.”

National and local lawmakers responded to the new allegations Saturday, with some calling for an independent investigation into the claims and others going so far as calling on the governor to step down.

New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) said in a statement shared with The Hill, “Everyone deserves to have their voice heard and taken seriously. I support an independent review.”

New York state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) also called for an “independent investigation” into the allegations, adding in a statement to The Hill, “The continued allegations are deeply disturbing and concerning” and that the “behavior described has no place in the workplace.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) issued direct rebukes toward Cuomo, tweeting, “It takes bravery and courage for victims to come forward with their horrific experiences facing sexual harassment, sexual grooming, and sexual abuse from Governor Cuomo.”

Stefanik added that Cuomo is a “criminal sexual predator” and must “immediately resign.” 

“I was one of the first and one of the only elected officials to call on the Governor to resign on Dec. 14th,” the congresswoman continued. “Today, it’s time for other New York State leaders to grow a spine.” 

Updated 8:01 p.m.

Tags Andrew Cuomo coronavirus pandemic Elise Stefanik New York sexual harassment allegations The New York Times

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