"Embarrassed" Cuomo apologizes for "pain I’ve caused," but says he won’t resign as New York’s governor

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that he won’t resign from office amid growing calls for him to step down over sexual harassment allegations. After a third woman came forward to allege inappropriate conduct, the governor said during a press conference he felt “embarrassed” for the “pain I’ve caused” and pledged to cooperate with an investigation led by the state attorney general.

“I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable,” Cuomo told reporters after giving updates on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. “I never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone pain. I feel terrible that these people felt uncomfortable, felt hurt, felt pain from the interactions, and I’m embarrassed by it, and I feel bad from it.”

Charlotte Bennett, a former health policy adviser to Cuomo, claimed that the governor asked her questions about her sex life, including whether she had ever had sex with older men. Her attorney, Debra Katz, said in a statement Wednesday that Bennett reported Cuomo to his chief of staff and chief counsel. 

“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,” Katz said.

Lindsey Boylan, a former deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to the governor, accused Cuomo of giving her an unwanted kiss and making inappropriate comments. Anna Ruch has accused the governor of touching her lower back and face and asking if he could kiss her at a wedding reception in 2019.

“I never touched anyone inappropriately,” Cuomo said Wednesday. Asked by CBS New York’s Marcia Kramer about a photo showing Cuomo putting his hands on Ruch’s cheeks, the governor said he understood Ruch’s feelings, but that’s how he greets people.

“You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people, women, men, children, et cetera,” Cuomo said. “You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people, men, women. It is my usual and customary way of greeting … By the way, it was my father’s way of greeting people,” referring to former Governor Mario Cuomo.

The governor said he was going to learn from the women coming forward. “I understand that sensitivities have changed and behavior has changed, and I get it,” Cuomo said.

While Cuomo has denied sexually harassing anyone, some members of his own party are calling for him to step down. On Monday night, Congresswoman Kathleen Rice became one of the highest-profile Democrats in New York to demand Cuomo’s resignation.

New York Attorney General Letitia James said Monday that the findings of the investigation into the allegations would be made public after its completion.

The allegations coincide with scrutiny over Cuomo’s handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes. He is facing a separate investigation over nursing home deaths during the pandemic.

Contributing: Jericka Duncan, Caitlin Yilek and Alex Sundby

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