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Cuomo, In Rare Direct Encounter With Media, Denies Allegations

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaking in Syracuse April 26, 2021.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaking in Syracuse April 26, 2021.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Monday denied all allegations of sexual harassment, made by multiple women, and predicted that a probe of his actions by the state Attorney General will find that he did nothing wrong. In his first in-person session with reporters in several months, the third-term Democrat also defended the way his administration reported the number of nursing home deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, something federal prosecutors are looking into.The governor appeared in Syracuse to announce that the state fair would be held, in a limited capacity, late in the summer.

But questions by reporters focused on several scandals that have engulfed Cuomo and his staff. The governor was asked directly whether he sexually harassed anyone.

“To put it very simply, no,” Cuomo said.

Most of the state’s top Democratic and Republican leaders have called on Cuomo to resign over the allegations.

Attorney General Tish James, a Democrat, is investigating. Cuomo was asked if he would consider stepping down, or accept disciplinary measures if James finds that any of the accusations are true. Again, Cuomo said no, and predicted that the report will exonerate him.

“The report can’t say anything different, because I didn’t do anything wrong,” said Cuomo.

One of the women, who works for Cuomo, said he invited her to the governor’s mansion because he said he needed help with his phone. She said when she was there, he groped her under her shirt. Others who have accused Cuomo of inappropriate behavior also said it occurred after he requested a private meeting to get help with the technology on his phone.

Published reports have said that Cuomo held pool parties at the mansion that younger staff attended. The governor was asked whether he regrets inviting young female aides to his private residence. Cuomo said he does not, and then segued into expressing his support for female employees.

“I have many women who are working in state government,” said Cuomo, who added that’s a “good thing."

“We should encourage people to hire more women in state government, in private practice, in private business and bring them to the highest levels,” he said.

The governor also addressed two other controversies. There are allegations he may have broken the state’s public officers law and coerced staff to work for free on a book he wrote about his management of the pandemic. Cuomo, who has said staff volunteered, was asked whether he had any documentation to prove that. He countered that no one has any evidence showing that staff were forced to work on the deal.

Cuomo also addressed the ongoing federal probe of whether he and his staff covered up the true number of nursing home residents who died during the pandemic when his administration withheld the number of deaths that occurred in hospitals. James found Cuomo and his aides had underreported those numbers by 50%.

The governor said other states also reported inconsistent numbers on nursing home deaths. But Politifacts found that New York was an outlier in excluding the hospital deaths from the final death tally. Cuomo said he and his health department delayed releasing the numbers for months because they wanted to make sure they had the correct numbers.

“There was a lot of gray, and most important, our concern was that the number was an accurate number,” said Cuomo.

He said New York did everything they could to keep nursing home residents and workers safe, and that those who say otherwise are engaging in “ugly politics." 

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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