By Michele Justic
Governor Cuomo, once highly regarded for his pandemic response, has been under fire both for failing to address Covid-related nursing home deaths, and for recent allegations of sexual harassment.
Former aides to Governor Cuomo, Charlotte Bennett and Lindsey Boylan, have come forward with reports that Cuomo had inappropriate conversations with them and touching without consent while employed by the Governor’s office. A third woman, Anna Ruch, had similar stories of inappropriate behavior, including an unsolicited kiss.
Democratic leaders have come out en masse to object to Cuomo’s alleged actions. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that if all the allegations are true, “He would not be able to govern, it’s as simple as that.”
Congresswoman Kathleen Rice posted on Facebook, “The time has come. The Governor must resign.”
Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin who has expressed interest in running for governorship, posted, “As a proud New Yorker, I just can’t sit back and watch Cuomo’s attacks on our freedoms, our wallets, and our safety. After his nursing home cover-up, bullying, abuse, and harassment have come more to light in recent days and weeks, it’s clearer now more than ever that he’s been in the Governor’s office too long and it’s time for Cuomo to go.”
Beth Garvey, Special Counsel and Senior Advisor to the Governor, released a statement, “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.
“All members of the Governor’s office will cooperate fully. We will have no further comment until the report is issued.”
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo responded to one claim, “Ms. Bennett was a hardworking and valued member of our team during COVID. She has every right to speak out. When she came to me and opened up about being a sexual assault survivor and how it shaped her and her ongoing efforts to create an organization that empowered her voice to help other survivors, I tried to be supportive and helpful. Ms. Bennett’s initial impression was right: I was trying to be a mentor to her. I never made advances toward Ms. Bennett nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate. The last thing I would ever have wanted was to make her feel any of the things that are being reported.
“This situation cannot and should not be resolved in the press; I believe the best way to get to the truth is through a full and thorough outside review and I am directing all state employees to comply with that effort. I ask all New Yorkers to await the findings of the review so that they know the facts before making any judgements. I will have no further comment until the review has concluded.”