Gov. Andrew Cuomo refused to resign, again, on Sunday following new allegations of inappropriate behavior leveled against the governor.
“I was elected by the people of the state,” Cuomo said Sunday during a coronavirus briefing. “I’m not going to resign because of allegations. The premise of resigning because of allegations is actually anti-Democratic.”
The governor reiterated his request for New Yorkers to wait for the results of the state attorney general’s independent investigation into the allegations before calling for his resignation.
“The system is based on due process and the credibility of the allegation,” Cuomo said. “Let the attorney general do her job … and that will be due process and then we’ll have the facts.”
Two more former aides came forward on Saturday, as more staffers accused Cuomo of creating a hostile work environment, the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post reported.
Ana Liss, 35, told The Wall Street Journal that when she worked as a policy aide to the governor between 2013 and 2015, Cuomo called her “sweetheart,” once kissed her hand and asked personal questions, including whether she had a boyfriend. She said he sometimes greeted her with a hug and a kiss on both cheeks.
Liss told the Journal she initially thought of Cuomo’s behavior as harmless, but it grew to bother her. She felt it was patronizing.
“It’s not appropriate, really, in any setting,” she said. “I wish that he took me seriously.”
Also on Saturday, 20 former Cuomo staffers alleged a toxic workplace, including Karen Hinton, who said the governor “summoned her to his hotel room and embraced her twice – the second time after she had already pulled away – during an uncomfortable encounter when he led HUD and she was a PR consultant for the agency,” the Washington Post reported. Cuomo served as HUD Secretary from 1997 to 2001.
Cuomo responded to the accusations from Liss and Hinton on Sunday. While he said some of the behavior Liss described was innocent political glad-handing, he added that he never meant to make anyone feel uncomfortable.
“That’s my way of doing friendly banter,” he said. “I never meant to make anyone feel uncomfortable.”
However, the governor flatly denied the accusations made by Hinton.
“What she said is not true … and she has been a longtime political adversary of mine; highly critical for many, many years and has made many, many accusations,” Cuomo said.
Liss and Hinton are the third and fourth former aides to come forward alleging the governor inappropriately interacted with them. This includes former aide Lindsey Boylan and former health policy advisor Charlotte Bennett. Anna Ruch, who was not an aide to the governor, also came forward with accusations of inappropriate behavior.
In a news conference Wednesday, Cuomo denied ever touching anyone inappropriately, but apologized for behaving in a way that he now realized had upset women he worked with. He said he’d made jokes and asked personal questions in an attempt to be playful and frequently greeted people with hugs and kisses, as his father, Mario Cuomo, had done when he was governor.
“I understand sensitivities have changed. Behavior has changed,” Cuomo said. “I get it and I’m going to learn from it.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James plans to hire an outside law firm to investigate the sexual harassment allegations. Some lawmakers have called for Cuomo to resign over his workplace behavior, and separate allegations that his administration misled the public about coronavirus fatalities in nursing homes.
As the new accusations reverberated through the state, a rally calling for Cuomo to resign was held outside of his Manhattan office Sunday afternoon.
This story comprises reporting from Patrick Ryan (News 4 Buffalo) and Stephen M. Lepore.