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Cuomo Acknowledges “Insensitive” Comments, Denies Inappropriate Touching

Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking in Saranac Lake
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking in Saranac Lake

Facing allegations of inappropriate comments and touching from former aides, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is acknowledging that his past comments “may have been insensitive or too personal.” However, the Democrat says he “never inappropriately touched anybody” and “never propositioned anybody.” The statement Sunday night comes as Cuomo is facing allegations of sexual harassment from two former aides, Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett.

Cuomo, 63, is asking for an outside, independent investigation into the claims. Beth Garvey, special counsel and senior advisor to the governor, said in a statement that “the Governor's office has asked Attorney General Tish James to select a qualified private lawyer to do an independent review.” James, a Democrat, earlier on Sunday said she should be the one to conduct the investigation after the Cuomo administration initially said all state staff had been instructed to cooperate with an investigation carried out by former Federal Judge Barbara Jones.

AG James said Sunday night that her office will hire a law firm and deputize them as attorneys to oversee an independent investigation.

"This is not a responsibility we take lightly," James said in a statement.

After the story broke Saturday night, it set off a day of public wrangling over the parameters of the investigation, with many of Cuomo’s fellow Democrats and well as Republicans rejecting the appointed investigator.

Cuomo’s full statement:

"Questions have been raised about some of my past interactions with people in the office. I never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm. I spend most of my life at work and colleagues are often also personal friends. At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I do, on occasion, tease people in what I think is a good natured way. I do it in public and in private. You have seen me do it at briefings hundreds of times. I have teased people about their personal lives, their relationships, about getting married or not getting married. I mean no offense and only attempt to add some levity and banter to what is a very serious business. I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that. To be clear I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but these are allegations that New Yorkers deserve answers to. That's why I have asked for an outside, independent review that looks at these allegations. Separately, my office has heard anecdotally that some people have reached out to Ms. Bennett to express displeasure about her coming forward. My message to anyone doing that is you have misjudged what matters to me and my administration and you should stop now - period."

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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