Disgraced New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced a barrage of criticism from fellow Democrats after The New York Times reported that the second former aide in four days had accused him of harassment.
The former aide, Charlotte Bennett, alleges that Cuomo asked her inappropriate questions. Bennett told the newspaper that the alleged incidents happened late last spring, during the height of the state’s fight against the coronavirus.
The Times report of a second aide comes after Cuomo denied allegations from another former aide who accused him of harassment.
Lindsey Boylan alleged that in 2018, the Democratic governor did something inappropriate following a one-on-one briefing in his New York City office. Cuomo also firmly denied the allegations in a press conference in December when Boylan first made them.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that the women’s “detailed accounts of harassment by Gov. Cuomo are extremely serious and painful to read,” and said the state attorney general should investigate. She was among several Democrats said an “independent review” announced by Cuomo was inadequate.
President Biden would support an independent review into the allegations of misconduct and believes the review should move “as quickly as possible,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Sunday on CNN.
Cuomo said in a statement Saturday that Bennett was a “hardworking and valued member of our team during COVID” and that “she has every right to speak out.”
He said he had intended to be a mentor for Bennett, who is 25.
“I never made advances toward Ms. Bennett nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate,” Cuomo’s statement said. “The last thing I would ever have wanted was to make her feel any of the things that are being reported.”
On Sunday, Cuomo asked the state’s attorney general and chief appeals court judge to jointly appoint an independent lawyer to investigate the allegations.
The move came after legislative leaders assailed Cuomo’s plan to appoint a retired federal judge to conduct the probe.
“The Governor’s Office wants a review of the harassment claims made against the Governor to be done in a manner beyond reproach,” Beth Garvey, special counsel to the governor, said. “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.”
Garvey said the Democratic governor’s administration has asked Attorney General Letitia James and Janet DiFiore, 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.”
Garvey said the report “will be solely controlled by that independent lawyer personally selected by the Attorney General and Chief Judge.”
Some top New York Democrats, however, said any investigation should be placed out of the control of the governor’s office, including the selection of the investigator.
“The accused CANNOT appoint the investigator. PERIOD,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, a Long Island Democrat. “The continued allegations are deeply disturbing and concerning. The behavior described has no place in the workplace. A truly independent investigation must begin immediately.”
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, both Democrats, called for an independent investigator.
The pair of harassment allegations represent a deepening crisis for Cuomo, who just months ago was at the height of his popularity for his leadership during coronavirus pandemic..
In recent weeks, he has been assailed over revelations that his administration had underreported COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. A state assemblyman went public with complaints that Cuomo had threatened to destroy him politically over statements he made in the press, prompting other politicians to share stories about having been bullied by the governor.
(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)