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Gov. Cuomo issues another statement on allegations, investigation into sexual harassment looms

Governor Andrew Cuomo released a statement after another allegation of sexual harassment over the weekend.

This time by former aide Charlotte Bennett, who accused the Governor of asking inappropriate questions about her sex life, and asking if she had sexual relations with older men.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s statement read as follows:

“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.”

Attorney General Letitia James said she will obtain a prosecutor to get to the bottom of the claims.

“Allegations of sexual harassment should always be taken seriously. There must be a truly independent investigation to thoroughly review these troubling allegations against the governor, and I stand ready to oversee that investigation and make any appointments necessary. Given state law, this can only be accomplished through an official referral from the governor’s office based on State Law (§ 63-8) and must include subpoena power. I urge the governor to make this referral immediately. Early Sunday evening, Attorney General James released the following statement in response to Governor Cuomo announcing he would grant her request for a referral to investigate allegations of sexual harassment:

We expect to receive a 63(8) referral with subpoena power to investigate allegations of sexual harassment against the governor, in line with our demands and New York state law. The referral would be made solely to the attorney general’s office. This is not a responsibility we take lightly. We will hire a law firm, deputize them as attorneys of our office, and oversee a rigorous and independent investigation.”

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand released the following statement:

“These allegations are serious and deeply concerning. As requested by Attorney General James, the matter should be referred to her office so that she can conduct a transparent, independent and thorough investigation with subpoena power.”

State Sen. Pam Helming issued a statement of her own:

“I want to thank these two women for having the courage to speak out. All women must be taken seriously and their voices must be heard. Sexual harassment anywhere, by anyone, must not be tolerated. There must be a full and independent investigation into these disturbing allegations, as I called for on February 24. And not by someone handpicked by the Governor or his legal counsel, or chosen by a judge appointed by the Governor. As I have said, I believe this investigation can be done thoroughly and impartially by Attorney General James or a special prosecutor of her choosing. I commend AG James for stating today that she is ready to oversee that investigation and make any necessary appointments. She should be granted all authority to begin that investigation immediately. On February 24, after the first allegation was reported, Senator Helming and Senators Daphne Jordan, Patty Ritchie, Sue Serino and Alexis Weik sent a letter to Attorney General Leticia James requesting a formal investigation.”