New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday said he was “sorry for whatever pained I caused” three women who say he sexually harassed them.
An emoitional Cuomo also said he will not resign over the scandal, and asked the public to reserve judgment as New York Attorney General Letitia James oversees an investigation of the allegations by the women, two of whom were his aides.
“I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” Cuomo said at a press conference. “It was unintentional.”
“And I truly and deeply apologize for it,” he said. “I feel awful about it.”
“I’m not going to resign,” Cuomo said. “I work for the people of New York.”
“I’m going to do the job the people of the state elected me to.”
The governor also said he will “fully cooperate” with the investigation by a lawyer or lawyers whom James will appoint. Those lawyers will have subpoena power to compel witnesses, including Cuomo, to answer their questions.
“I ask the people of New York to wait for the facts from the attorney general before forming an opinion,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo was first accused last week by former aide Lindsey Boylan of kissing her without her consent, and of suggesting a game of “strip poker” aboard an official flight.
Within days, another former aide, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett, told The New York Times that Cuomo, who is 63, last year asked her questions including whether she “had ever been with an older man,” whether she was monogamous in her relationships and other personal questions that made her feel uncomfortable.
On Monday, The Times published claims by another woman, Anna Ruch, who said that Cuomo, whom she did not know, put his hand on her bare lower back at a wedding, and then told her she seemed “aggressive” as he cupped her face with his hands. Ruch said Cuomo then asked if he could kiss her.
A photo of an uncomfortable-looking Ruch with Cuomo holding her face accompanied that article.
Ruch’s account increased the number of people who have called on Cuomo to resign, among them Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice of New York.
Cuomo’s comments Wednesday was the first time the governor had publicly addressed the women’s allegations.
“I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this,” he said. “First, I fully support a woman’s right to come forward and I think that should be encouraged in every way.”
After apologizing for making the women feel uncomfortable, Cuomo said “I am embarrassed by it, and that’s not easy to say, but that’s the truth.”
“I want you to know … I never touched anyone inappropriately,” the governor said. “I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable.”
“And I certainly never ever mean to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain.”
“I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation for me as well as for other people, and I’ve learned an important lesson,” Cuomo said.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone. I never intended it, and I will be the better for this experience.”
Cuomo last weekend tried to control who would investigate the allegations by Boylan and Bennett, saying that a former federal judge would do the job.
The governor then sought to have the state’s top judge oversee the probe in conjunction with James.
Cuomo’s efforts sparked a political backlash, and James pointedly refused the arrangement. The governor quickly caved, and said James’s office would handle the probe herself.
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