‘Kissed Without Consent’: Harassment Charges Against NY Guv Cuomo
Andrew Cuomo has formally referred himself for investigation after three women accused him of sexual harassment.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the face of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in the state, has formally referred himself for investigation after three women accused him of sexual harassment – two of whom are his former aides.
Cuomo's office said that they have written to New York Attorney General Letitia James, requesting an independent probe into the allegations, reported news agency AFP.
"This is not a responsibility we take lightly as allegations of sexual harassment should always be taken seriously," James said in a statement.
What Are the Allegations?
A former member of Cuomo’s administration who had previously accused him of sexual harassment, on 25 February said that Cuomo "once kissed her on the lips without consent."
She added that during her more than three years in the Democrat’s administration, Cuomo “would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs,” reported The New York Times.
He also reportedly compared her to one of his rumoured ex-girlfriends and once remarked they “should play strip poker.”
Just three days later, on 28 February, an executive assistant and health policy adviser in the Cuomo administration, said that Cuomo asked if she was in a monogamous relationship and if she had sex with older men.
The 25-year-old said that while Cuomo "never tried to touch her, until she left office in November, his message was "unmistakable."
“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” the woman said, adding “And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”
What is Rape Culture?
In the third allegation that surfaced most recently, a 33-year-old former White House photographer alleged that Cuomo "touched her face and back and asked to kiss her moments after they met at a wedding reception," reported The Associated Press.
“I was so confused and shocked and embarrassed,” she told The New York Times, adding “I turned my head away and didn’t have words in that moment.”
Cuomo Denies Allegations
The 63-year-old denied that he ever tried to inappropriately touch or proposition anyone.
Cuomo said he was "truly sorry" if his conduct had ever been "misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation."
“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. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.”Andrew Cuomo
Pressure Mounts for Cuomo’s Resignation
On 1 March, US President Joe Biden, known to be a longtime Cuomo ally, declined to stand behind the governor facing sexual harassment charges.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden supports the state attorney general’s probe.
“The president’s view has been consistent and clear,” Psaki said when asked about Cuomo. “Every woman coming forward should be treated with dignity and respect,” reported The Associated Press.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who also belongs to the Democratic Party as Cuomo, slammed the governor’s statement responding to the allegations.
"That's not an apology. He seemed to be saying, 'Oh, I was just kidding around.' Sexual harassment is not funny. It's serious," said de Blasio.
The harassment allegations come at a time when the governor is facing accusations of covering up the true death toll of coronavirus on nursing home residents.
(With inputs from the New York Times, The Associated Press and AFP)
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