One of the former staffers who has accused New York Gov Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment believes he groomed her while she was working for him, while another says she was motivated to come forward following talk that he would be Biden’s Attorney General.
Charlotte Bennett, 25, has claimed that Cuomo sexually harassed her last June while she was working as a health policy adviser in his administration.
She is set to open up about the allegations in her first TV interview with Norah O’Donnell on CBS Evening News tonight.
Bennett will speak about how she believes Cuomo, who has denied making advances on Bennett, groomed her and reveal the ‘shocking questions’ her asked her about her sex life, according to O’Donnell.
‘She talks about how she believes Governor Cuomo groomed her. She talks about the culture in the Cuomo administration,’ O’Donnell said as she promoted her interview. ‘There are details that we have just not heard to date in this very powerful interview.’
It comes as another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, 36, opened about her sexual harassment claims against Cuomo in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar published today.
Charlotte Bennett, 25, (left) has claimed that Cuomo sexually harassed her last year while she was working as a health policy adviser in his administration last year. Lindsey Boylan, 36, (right) claims Cuomo commented on her appearance inappropriately, kissed her without her consent and went out of his way to touch her on her lower back, arms and legs
Bennett is set to open up about the allegations in her first TV interview with Norah O’Donnell on CBS Evening News tonight
She revealed she came forward after the Democratic governor’s name started being floated as a potential nominee for a cabinet position in Biden’s administration.
‘I woke up the next day, and the governor was being floated for attorney general, the highest law enforcement position in the U.S.,’ Boylan said. ‘And I didn’t think about it at all… I began tweeting about my experience.’
‘After I initially came forward, it felt like I had intentionally blown up my own body into pieces all over the world, and people were looking at them. It almost felt like I had done this to myself. I had made that choice.’
Bennett and Boylan are two of three women to accuse Cuomo of harassment.
Bennett has claimed Cuomo quizzed her about her sex life and told her he would consider dating ‘anyone above the age of 22’.
Boylan claims Cuomo commented on her appearance inappropriately, kissed her without her consent and went out of his way to touch her on her lower back, arms and legs.
She also alleges that he once suggested a game of strip poker aboard his state-owned jet.
Meanwhile, a third woman – Anna Ruch – told The New York Times that Cuomo put his hands on her face and asked if he could kiss her just moments after they met at a September 2019 wedding in Manhattan.
Boylan said in her magazine interview that she has been in touch with Bennett but not Ruch, adding that Ruch’s story made her feel ‘nauseous’.
Bennett has already publicly claimed that Cuomo asked her inappropriate questions about her sex life, including whether she ever had sex with older men, in his Albany office last June.
Cuomo on Wednesday rejected calls for his resignation in the face of the harassment allegations. He apologized and said that he had ‘learned an important lesson’ about his behavior around women.
She said Cuomo started asking her about her personal life, her thoughts on romantic relationships, including whether age was a factor, and said he was open to dating women over the age of 22.
She said Cuomo never touched her.
‘I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,’ Bennett told the New York Times when she first made the allegations public. ‘And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.’
Former aide Lindsey Boylan (left) has accused Cuomo of harassing her, claiming he once suggested a game of strip poker aboard his state-owned jet. Anna Ruch (right) alleges that Cuomo put his hands on her face and asked if he could kiss her just moments after they met at a September 2019 wedding in Manhattan
Bennett said Cuomo also told her he wanted a girlfriend, ‘preferably in the Albany area,’ and he was lonely since breaking up with Sandra Lee, a chef and TV personality.
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.
Bennett said she informed Cuomo’s chief of staff, Jill DesRosiers, about the interaction less than a week later. She said she was transferred to another job on the opposite side of the Capitol. At the end of June she also gave a statement to a special counsel for Cuomo.
Cuomo’s special counsel, Beth Garvey, has acknowledged that the complaint had been made and that Bennett was transferred as a result to a position in which she had already been interested.
Garvey said in a statement that Bennett’s allegations ‘did not include a claim of physical contact or inappropriate sexual conduct’ and Bennett ‘was consulted regarding the resolution, and expressed satisfaction and appreciation for the way in which it was handled.’
‘The determination reached based on the information Ms Bennett provided was that no further action was required which was consistent with Ms Bennett’s wishes,’ Garvey said.
Bennett said she decided not to push for any further action by the administration. She said she liked her new job and ‘wanted to move on.’
Anna Ruch told The New York Times that Cuomo put his hands on her face and asked if he could kiss her just moments after they met at a September 2019 wedding in Manhattan
Ex and current Cuomo staffers say they’re ‘waking up to the fact they were in a cult’
Nearly a dozen former and current staffers have detailed to Gothamist/WNYC the working culture inside Gov Cuomo’s office after he was accused of sexual harassment.
Some of the staffers say they weren’t surprised by the allegations given what they claim is a bullying environment and intense work culture inside Cuomo’s office.
Former staffers have described working there as having ‘Stockholm syndrome’, while others said they’re ‘kind of waking up to the fact that we were in a cult’.
Some said Cuomo was a ‘micromanager to the 100th degree’ and had a tough management style.
One staffer who had a fellowship when she was in her 20s in 2013 described how she was quickly set up near Cuomo’s office, with staffers later telling her the governor like blondes.
She was also told to wear stilettos when in the Albany office.
Some staffers, however, refuted the toxic workplace notions.
‘I think everyone there wants to do the best work they can. Sometimes that work-life balance is sacrificed. I was definitely burned out by the end of my time there. I didn’t take it personally,’ the staffer said.
Boylan, who worked for Cuomo’s team from March 2015 to October 2018, first tweeted about an abusive workplace environment in the administration in December.
She elaborated on her accusations in a February 24 Medium post in which she said Cuomo once suggested a game of strip poker and on another occasion kissed her without her consent.
Cuomo on Wednesday rejected calls for his resignation in the face of the harassment allegations.
He apologized and said that he had ‘learned an important lesson’ about his behavior around women.
Cuomo initially said he was apologizing to ‘people’ who were uncomfortable with his conduct. At one point, he said he was apologizing to ‘the young woman who worked here who said that I made her feel uncomfortable in the workplace’.
‘I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,’ Cuomo said. ‘It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it.
‘I’m embarrassed by what happened… I’m embarrassed that someone felt that way in my administration. I’m embarrassed and hurt and I apologize that somebody who interacted with me felt that way.’
Asked about calls for him to step aside, the third-term governor said: ‘I wasn’t elected by politicians, I was elected by the people of the state of New York. I´m not going to resign.’
Cuomo acknowledged ‘sensitivities have changed and behavior has changed’ and that what he considers his ‘customary greeting’ – an old-world approach that often involves kisses and hugs – is not acceptable.
Cuomo said he inherited his gregarious way of greeting people from his father, the late former Gov. Mario Cuomo, and that he intended to be welcoming and make people feel comfortable.
He said he will ‘fully cooperate’ with an investigation into the allegations overseen by the state’s independently elected attorney general. Attorney General Letitia James, also a Democrat, is selecting an outside law firm to conduct the probe and document its findings in a public report.
Bennett’s lawyer, Debra Katz, said the governor’s news conference ‘was full of falsehoods and inaccurate information.’
She said Cuomo’s claim that he was unaware he had made women uncomfortable was disingenuous, considering that Bennett had reported his behavior to her boss and one of Cuomo’s lawyers.
‘We are confident that they made him aware of her complaint and we fully expect that the Attorney General´s investigation will demonstrate that Cuomo administration officials failed to act on Ms Bennett´s serious allegations or to ensure that corrective measures were taken, in violation of their legal requirements,’ Katz said.
The harassment allegations represent a deepening crisis for Cuomo, who just months ago was at the height of his popularity for his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In recent weeks, he has been assailed over revelations that his administration had underreported COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.