New York Daily News
A second former aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo accused him of sexual harassment, saying the governor asked several questions about her sex life and made her feel “horribly uncomfortable and scared.”
Charlotte Bennett, who was a health policy adviser and executive assistant to the governor, made the allegations in an interview published Saturday by The New York Times.
A second aide to Gov. Cuomo is accusing him of sexual harassment, saying the governor asked him several questions about her sex life.
Bennett, 25, told the newspaper that Cuomo asked her if she’d ever had a relationship with an older man and whether she thought age made a difference in relationships.
The governor also told Bennett at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic that he was lonely and looking for a girlfriend, that he was open to relationships with women in their 20s, and spoke to her about her past sexual assault in a manner which felt like “something out of a horror movie.”
Bennett, who began working for the state last March and has since left, said Cuomo never touched her. But, she told the Times, “I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me … And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”
Bennett provided texts sent to friends and colleagues backing up her concerns about Cuomo’s behavior toward her back in June.
She also alerted the governor’s chief of staff, Jill DesRosiers, at the time, took a different job within the administration that involved less direct contact with Cuomo and didn’t push for an investigation.
In a statement Saturday, Cuomo said that “Ms. Bennett was a hardworking and valued member of our team during COVID. She has every right to speak out.”
“I never made advances toward Ms. Bennett nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate,” he said. “The last thing I would ever have wanted was to make her feel any of the things that are being reported.”
Bennett said her discomfort with the situation smoldered over time and she decided to speak out after seeing another former Cuomo aide, Lindsey Boylan, share her story in a lengthy essay published Wednesday.
Boylan, who worked as a senior adviser to the governor, said New York’s most powerful Democrat would often touch her inappropriately, made her uncomfortable at work and once kissed her on the lips without her consent.
Boylan accused the governor of going “out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs,” forcibly kissing her on the lips during a one-on-one meeting, and suggesting that they “play strip poker” during an airplane ride.
Cuomo’s office called the claims “quite simply false.”
Cuomo’s office announced it is launching an “independent review” into the matter that will be led by former federal Judge Barbara Jones.
Some questioned just how independent the probe would be given Jones once worked with close Cuomo ally Steve Cohen.
Both Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie called for “truly independent investigation” into the allegations.
“The continued allegations are deeply disturbing and concerning. The behavior described has no place in the workplace,” Stewart-Cousins said.
In a separate news release issued after the governor’s initial statement, Cuomo counsel Beth Garvey said that there are “no limits on the scope of Judge Jones’ review.”
Some state lawmakers, even the governor’s fellow Democrats, said a probe, independent or not, wasn’t good enough.
Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou and Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, both Democrats, called on the governor to resign.
“(Gov. Cuomo), you are a monster, and it is time for you to go. Now,” Biaggi tweeted.
Cuomo is also currently facing a growing firestorm over the state’s handling of nursing home deaths during the pandemic and the decision to delay the release of data on COVID deaths in long-term care facilities, which is the subject of a federal investigation.
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