New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo apologized again on Wednesday amid calls for his resignation in the wake of sexual harassment allegations, reports of bullying and undercounting COVID-19 deaths connected to nursing homes.
The Democratic leader issued the apology during a coronavirus briefing in Albany after offering updates on the state’s response to the pandemic and vaccine rollout. It was his first public appearance since details of the harassment complaints became public last week.
“I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly, I am embarrassed by it,” Cuomo said. “But this is what I want you to know: I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable. And I certainly never ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain.”
The governor asked New Yorkers to wait for the results of a state attorney general investigation into the harassment allegations before forming an opinion on what happened.
“I’m not going to resign,” Cuomo said. “Get the facts, please, before forming an opinion.”
Watch the news conference below.
Cuomo was already facing criticism for his administration’s undercounting of pandemic-related nursing home fatalities when a former aide, Lindsey Boylan, elaborated on harassment allegations she first made in December.
Boylan said Cuomo subjected her to an unwanted kiss and comments about her appearance.
Soon after, another former employee, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett, said Cuomo, 63, questioned her about her sex life, talked about being lonely and asked if she would be open to a sexual relationship with an older man.
Cuomo said he had intended to be a mentor for Bennett. He denied Boylan’s allegations.
On Monday, a third woman, Anna Ruch, said in a New York Times report that Cuomo touched her back and face without consent and asked to kiss her in the middle of a 2019 wedding reception, moments after they met.
While Cuomo maintained on Wednesday that he never inappropriately touched or propositioned anyone, he said he realized his true intentions do not matter.
“I also want you to know that I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation,” Cuomo said. “I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone. I never intended it and I will be the better for this experience.”
The governor also reiterated his support for an independent investigation of the sexual harassment claims that will culminate with a public report.
“I will fully cooperate with that review,” Cuomo said.
Prior to the harassment accusations, the Queens-born politician faced backlash for an alleged February tirade against New York Assemblyman Ron Kim, who questioned the governor’s handling of COVID-19 in state nursing homes.
The state lawmaker called Cuomo an “abuser” in an interview with the PIX11 Morning News after Cuomo allegedly threatened to ruin Kim’s career if he did not fall in line with the governor.
Kim was among several officials who called for an investigation into the Cuomo administration’s alleged coverup of nursing home fatalities from COVID-19.
The scandals have tested the limits of the Democratic Party’s support as Democrats grapple with one of the first political headaches of the post-Trump era.
Few Democrats have come to Cuomo’s rescue. But they haven’t explicitly condemned him, either.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced Tuesday that they plan to introduce legislation to strip emergency powers from Cuomo. These powers were granted at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, President Joe Biden, a longtime Cuomo ally, declined to stand behind the embattled governor.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the president supports the state attorney general’s probe. She noted that Biden requires people to be treated with civility and respect in his administration.
The Associated Press and NEWS10 contributed to this report.