Responding to sexual harassment allegations against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a spokesperson for his office is asking the state’s attorney general and chief judge to appoint an independent investigator to conduct a review. But New York Attorney General Letitia James rejected the Democratic governor’s request, saying she alone will appoint the investigator.
While I have deep respect for Chief Judge DiFiore, I am the duly elected attorney general and it is my responsibility to carry out this task.
The governor must provide this referral so an independent investigation with subpoena power can be conducted.
— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) February 28, 2021
Beth Garvey, special counsel and senior advisor to Cuomo, said in a statement earlier on Sunday: “The Governor’s Office wants a review of the sexual harassment claims made against the Governor to be done in a manner beyond reproach. We had selected former Federal Judge Barbara Jones, with a stellar record for qualifications and integrity, but we want to avoid even the perception of a lack of independence or inference of politics.”
“Accordingly we have asked the Attorney General of New York State and the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals to jointly select an independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation to conduct a thorough review of the matter and issue a public report. The work product will be solely controlled by that independent lawyer personally selected by the Attorney General and Chief Judge.”
In a story published Saturday by the New York Times, Charlotte Bennett, a 25-year-old former aide to Governor Cuomo, said that he engaged in inappropriate conversations with her, including asking about her sex life and if she slept with older men. The governor also told Bennett that he would consider getting into a relationship with a woman in her 20s, she said.
The governor denied the allegations, saying that he “never made advances toward Ms. Bennett, nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate.” Additionally, he asked for people to wait until there was an independent review “before making any judgments.”
Bennett came forward after former Cuomo aide Lindsey Boylan authored a Medium post last week detailing the harassment she says she experienced from the governor. Boylan wrote that in the Cuomo administration, “sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected.” She said that the governor made numerous inappropriate remarks, would “go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs,” and once kissed her on the lips without her consent.
Cuomo had initially tried to appoint an investigator of his own choosing, which prompted lawmakers to argue in favor of an independent investigator. New York Congressman Jerry Nadler issued a statement on Saturday saying the allegations were “deeply troubling and deserve a thorough investigation.” He also said Cuomo should not appoint the investigator himself but should refer the matter to New York Attorney General Letitia James to appoint an investigator. New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also called for an investigator to be appointed by James.
My statement on the allegations of sexual harassment by Governor Cuomo: pic.twitter.com/3aIniWFzJ0
— Rep. Nadler (@RepJerryNadler) February 28, 2021
Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett’s detailed accounts of sexual harassment by Gov. Cuomo are extremely serious and painful to read.
There must be an independent investigation – not one led by an individual selected by the Governor, but by the office of the Attorney General.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 28, 2021
And on CNN Saturday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki echoed calls for an independent investigation and said the president agrees. “There should be an independent review of these allegations. They’re serious. … That’s something we all support and the president supports.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on the sexual assault allegations against NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo: "There should be an independent review of these allegations. They're serious. … That's something we all support and the President supports" #CNNSOTU https://t.co/CxHK6Kgx7f pic.twitter.com/pPoDl1xhQ6
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) February 28, 2021
Cuomo’s reputation has suffered in recent months. He emerged at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic as a popular figure for his frequent press conferences and seeming transparency. But his administration has been rocked by these sexual harassment allegations, which came on the heels of a report by state Attorney General Letitia James that found he had not been reporting accurate numbers on nursing home deaths from the virus.
This is a breaking news story and has been updated.