As New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says he will not step down amid a mounting sexual harassment scandal, his ex-girlfriend Sandra Lee has been spotted out and about in Malibu, California, where she recently made a fresh start after moving out of the home they had shared.
‘There is no way I resign. Let the attorney general do the investigation and go from there,’ Cuomo said in a call with reporters on Sunday, adding that he will not be ‘distracted’ by the allegations, which he deemed ‘irrelevant’ until the investigation is concluded.
Meanwhile his ex-girlfriend Lee, 54, was seen near her home in the ritzy coastal enclave of Malibu on Friday, wearing a flowing white linen beach dress as she soaked up the sun far from the frenzy engulfing her former lover.
The celebrity chef and Food Network star began dating Cuomo in 2005, following his divorce from Kerry Kennedy, with whom he shares three daughters, and the couple broke up in 2019 after more than a decade together.
In December, she made a fresh start on the West Coast after selling the upstate home in Mt. Kisco that she had shared with the governor while they were together.
Lee has not yet spoken out publicly either to support or condemn Cuomo after five women accused him of untoward remarks, lewd propositions, or inappropriate touching. Seeming shocked by the allegations, Lee responded with only three words when reached by the New York Post, saying: ‘Oh my God.’
Sandra Lee, 54, was seen running errands in Malibu on Friday, wearing a flowing white linen beach dress as she soaked up the sun far from the frenzy engulfing her former lover
Lee has been embracing her new life on the West Coast, posting about the best sunsets and thanking God for the ocean
Lee was spotted outside her $3.38 million beachfront house speaking with an unknown woman and directing workers from a tree cutting service
Cuomo and Lee are seen together in 2018 at a film screening in New York City. The celebrity chef and Food Network star began dating Cuomo in 2005, following his divorce from Kerry Kennedy
Charlotte Bennett, 25, worked as an aide for Cuomo. She claims he sexually harassed her and left her ‘terrified’
At a news conference on Wednesday, Cuomo denied ever touching anyone inappropriately, but apologized for behaving in a way he now realized upset women with whom he worked.
It came as he faced a second scandal over New York’s handling of nursing homes in the coronavirus pandemic, after a top aide alleged that the true death toll was withheld to avoid political fallout.
It was a stunning fall from grace from the top Democrat, who became a national celebrity in the pandemic with his daily televised briefings, which were fêted with an Emmy and celebrated in his triumphant autobiography last year.
For Lee, the timing of her move out west may have been fortuitous, taking her out of the spotlight just before allegations emerged that Cuomo, 63, propositioned an aide in her 20s, allegedly telling her that he was ‘lonely’ after splitting with his longtime girlfriend.
In December, Lee shared her bittersweet emotions at selling her beloved Mt. Kisco home, posting nostalgic snaps of the four-bedroom Colonial style home she called ‘Lily Pond’.
‘How am I very going to rebuild my life – I don’t think it’s possible. It took me a lifetime to build that home. The home I never had when I was growing up,’ she wrote in a mournful Instagram post.
On Wednesday celebrity chef Sandra Lee, 54, opened up about her heartbreak after moving out of the Mt. Kisco, New York home she shared with Gov. Cuomo this week saying, ‘How am I going to rebuild my life?’
In Malibu, where she has family ties, Lee has made a fresh start and embraced West Coast living in a $3.38 million beachfront house
Lee shared the gorgeous ocean views from her new Malibu home as she embraces a new West Coast life
‘Sending everyone peace and loving healing regards from Malibu! The best sunsets ever thank God for the Ocean!’ Lee wrote in one post last week as she relaxes far from the scandals engulfing her former lover
But in Malibu, where she has family ties, Lee has made a fresh start and embraced West Coast living in a $3.38 million beachfront house, which sits right next to the water offering spectacular coastline views and the vast Pacific.
The single-story home was built in 1948 and sold to her by a family who had owned the property for more than 50 years. The house is spread over 1,700 square feet and comes complete with two bedrooms.
After settling in to her new beachfront abode, Lee has been posting messages of support for her friends and family members on Instagram, including for a beloved uncle who is suffering health challenges.
‘Sending everyone peace and loving healing regards from Malibu! The best sunsets ever thank God for the Ocean!’ she wrote in one post last week.
Meanwhile in the Empire State, her ex-boyfriend Cuomo faces a political firestorm and mounting calls to resign.
On Saturday, Ana Liss, 35, and Karen Hinton, 62, both made separate allegations of sexual harassment against Cuomo, 63, bringing the total number of accusers up to five.
On Thursday, Lee was spotted running errands in Malibu as the fury surrounding her ex-boyfriend grew
Lee was dressed comfortably in a flowing black sweater jacket and sneakers as she ran errands in her Range Rover
Liss, who previously served as Cuomo’s policy and operations aide between 2013 and 2015, told the Wall Street Journal that during her time in his administration, the governor had subjected her to unsolicited advances, including touching her lower back, kissing her hand and quizzing her about her love life.
Her claims were followed by Hinton, who recalled for the Washington Post about an incident in which Cuomo summoned her to his ‘dimly lit’ hotel room and embraced her after a work event in 2000. Hinton said she tried to pull away from Cuomo, but claims he pulled her back and held her before she managed to escape the room.
Top Democratic lawmakers in New York state remained silent after the latest allegations — despite insisting the embattled governor should resign if any more accusers emerged.
State Sen. Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, (D-Westchester), is still yet to back up her stance from days previous when she insisted Cuomo should resign if any more women accused him of misconduct.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, (D-Bronx), has also remained radio silent in the hours since both Liss’ and Hinton’s allegations were made.
Cuomo and Lee are seen in 2009. Seeming shocked by the allegations, Lee responded with only three words when reached for her reaction, saying: ‘Oh my God.’
‘I understand sensitivities have changed. Behavior has changed,’ Cuomo said. ‘I get it and I’m going to learn from it’
Amid the mounting allegations, other aides spoke to both the Journal and Post about the ‘toxic’ work environment allegedly cultivated by Cuomo in his office.
It included testimonies from two male aides who claimed the governor would berate them using explicit language, calling them ‘pu**ies’ and saying that they ‘have no balls’.
Many of those aides said they would only speak on the grounds of anonymity because they were fearful of Cuomo’s ‘wrath’ and his power to destroy careers, the Post reported.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, a Republican, also came out to publicly denounce Cuomo on Sunday, insisting the American people ‘deserve better’ than governors such as him.
Noem also lamented coverage of the sexual harassment scandal, saying that it was ‘amazing’ to her how ‘differently the media has treated Gov. Cuomo to Brett Kavanaugh,’ the now-Supreme Court justice who faced a grilling in the wake of allegations against him.
Prior to Liss and Hinton, Charlotte Bennett, 25, revealed this week that Cuomo had questioned her about her sex life and whether she had relationships with older men.
Bennett said Cuomo also told her he wanted a girlfriend, ‘preferably in the Albany area,’ and he was lonely since breaking up with Lee
She also said she tried to change the subject when Cuomo’s comments were making her uncomfortable, telling him she was thinking of getting a tattoo.
Bennett said Cuomo responded by suggesting she put the tattoo on her buttocks.
Lindsey Boylan also revealed in a February Medium post that the governor had tried to kiss her on the lips in his office and suggested they play strip poker during a 2017 flight. Cuomo’s office has said these claims are false.
A third accuser, Anna Ruch, 33, then came forward telling the New York Times that Cuomo put his hands on her face and asked if he could kiss her after meeting her at a September 2019 wedding.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Cuomo denied any inappropriate touching, and said that any remarks that made staff uncomfortable were unintentional.
He said he had 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.’
An electronic billboard in Albany displays a message that reads ‘Resign Now’ for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in the wake of allegations that he sexually harassed young women
Sharing her allegations Saturday, Liss claimed that she decided to come forward after Bennett and Boylan shared their stories, stating that Cuomo’s response to the allegations had been unsatisfactory.
Top female aides defending Cuomo have family ties to companies that make millions lobbying the governor
Two top female aides who have defended New York Governor Andrew Cuomo amid a wave of sexual misconduct and harassment allegations have family ties to companies that make millions from lobbying him.
Cuomo’s secretary Melissa DeRosa, who is also tied into the nursing home scandal, is married to Matthew Wing, who works as a communications executive for Uber, the New York Post reports.
Uber spent more than $1.1 million lobbying in New York, including ‘direct’ talks with Cuomo, in 2019 and 2020, it adds.
Her father, Giorgio DeRosa, is also chief Albany lobbyist for Bolton St. Johns firm.
According to the report, the Durst Organization paid $60,000; United Airlines $30,000, and Pfizer $33,000 for Bolton St. Johns to lobby Cuomo’s office.
‘Bolton St. Johns has been in business for over 25 years and we have always conducted our affairs with the highest ethical conduct and with the utmost transparency,’ a spokesperson told The Post.
‘We’ve promoted each other, and we’ve supported one another,’ DeRosa has said of the allegations against Cuomo. ‘And I don’t think that this diminishes any of that.’
Chief of staff Jill DesRosiers also had ties to large New York lobbyists.
Her life partner Harry Giannoulis is the president and co-founder of the Parkside Group.
Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association allegedly wrote checks for $35,850 and $32,700 respectively to Parkside for access to Cuomo, the Post reports.
Fanduel is also claimed to have spent at least $52,000 last year to use Parkside conncections.
‘Nobody at the Parkside Group has lobbied Jill DesRosiers and Harry Giannoulis doesn’t lobby anybody. It’s as simple as that,’ said Tim Costa, a spokesman for the firm.
In a statement, Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said: ‘Melissa is proactively recused on any specific matters that members of her family are involved with and her husband has never lobbied state government, nor is he registered to do so.
‘Jill has no involvement in anything that Parkside lobbies on,’ he continued, claiming that the criticism of their ties to the companies is sexist.
‘They have taken appropriate action to avoid conflicts and trying to define two of the highest ranking women in New York State government by their relationships and their family is something that never would be done to a male official.’
The governor apologized for making the women feel uncomfortable during a press conference last week and claimed that the actions were part of his general behavior with everyone.
In a statement to the Journal, Cuomo’s senior adviser Rich Azzopardi claimed that Cuomo has acted in the same way that Liss described with hundreds of people during his time as governor.
‘Reporters and photographers have covered the governor for 14 years watching him kiss men and women and posing for pictures,’ he said.
‘At the public open-house mansion reception, there are hundreds of people, and he poses for hundreds of pictures. That’s what people in politics do.’
Liss has claimed that the alleged advances happened as she was working in her first year in his administration. She sat at a desk near his office in the Executive Chamber of the New York State Capitol in Albany.
While Liss told the Journal that she initially regarded Cuomo’s actions as harmless flirtations, she eventually began to see them as patronizing.
She claimed that they made her feel as if she had been reduced to ‘just a skirt’ instead of a professional.
‘It’s not appropriate, really, in any setting,’ she said. ‘I just wish—I wish that he took me seriously.’
When she joined Cuomo’s office, Liss already had a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and had been working at a business-development firm in Rochester, she told the Journal.
Liss joined the administration after winning a competitive fellowship in 2013 but was dismayed when the governor appeared to only comment on her personal life or appearance instead of about work, she claims.
‘He came right over to me and he was like, “Hey, Sweetheart!”‘ she said of a meeting in Cuomo’s residence at the Executive Mansion in Albany in 2014.
Liss told the Journal that Cuomo hugged her, kissed her on both cheeks and then grabbed her around the waist, which was similar to the incident Boylan had referenced in her accusations.
During Boylan’s 2016 encounter, however, the governor allegedly said he had a crush on her.
Liss said that she never made a formal complaint against the governor but eventually asked for a transfer to another office – as did Bennett, a week after Cuomo allegedly made his advances on her.
That year, Liss drank heavily, she claimed, and eventually left the Executive Chamber in 2015 to take a position at Cornell University as a corporate-relations manager. Other aides told the Journal they had witnessed her drinking heavily when she worked for the governor.
She says that her experience working with the governor led her to begin mental-health counseling in 2014 but that she is still proud of her work there and supports the policies that Cuomo has enacted.
According to Liss and other staffers who spoke to the Journal, Cuomo would often ask about their dating lives and comment on their physical appearance.
They claim that senior aides also advised that women wear heels when the governor was working from his office in Albany, a claim which Azzopardi denied, stating that no one was compelled to wear heels.
Three women who worked as young staffers in Cuomo’s offices also told the Post that the governor would often question them about their dating lives, which they believed to be part of an office culture that was degrading to young women.
‘What this is is a systemic, intentional, hostile, toxic workplace environment that . . . perpetuates abusive treatment of people who don’t have power or resources,’ one former staffer told the Post.
‘You didn’t know which Andrew you were going to get,’ another added of his Jekyll-and-Hyde persona.
‘I remember thinking it was pretty vicious and over the top, like if I had killed somebody,’ the woman added of a time when Cuomo allegedly shouted at her so badly that colleagues came to check on her well-being. ‘Not even my own parents had ever yelled at me the way he yelled at me.’
Some former aides said that like Liss, they were also infuriated with the manner in which the governor had brushed aside the allegations earlier this week.
However, other female aides told the Journal that they remembered Cuomo’s treatment of his female staff more endearingly, including when he sent them flowers on Valentine’s Day.
For their report, the Post said it contacted 150 former staffers of Cuomo, the vast majority of whom did not respond. Of those who did, however, ‘the majority spoke on the condition of anonymity, because they said they still fear his wrath and his power to destroy careers.’
One of the journalists behind the report, Amy Brittain, later tweeted: ‘I’ve been a reporter for a decade now, and I don’t think I have ever heard people as fearful to speak about someone as they are about Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
‘Former staffers described his rage & vindictiveness & said they feared he would destroy their careers.’