New York Gov. Cuomo defends himself following damning sexual harassment report: 'The facts are much different'

New York Gov. Cuomo defends himself following damning sexual harassment report: 'The facts are much different'
cuomo impeachment letter
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images
  • Cuomo on Tuesday reacted to a NY AG investigation that found he sexually harassed nearly a dozen women.

  • "The facts are much different than what has been portrayed," he said.

  • Cuomo's message played over a montage of him kissing and hugging people and touching their faces.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday responded to an independent investigation that found he sexually harassed nearly a dozen women.

"I can now finally share the truth," Cuomo said. "The facts are much different than what has been portrayed."

Cuomo rejected the sexual misconduct allegations brought forth by 11 women in a 165-page report released by New York State Attorney General Letitia James' office earlier Tuesday.

"I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances. That is just not who I am and that is not who I have ever been," he said. "I welcome the opportunity for a full and fair review before a judge and jury, because this just did not happen."

Cuomo went on to directly apologize to one of the accusers, his former aide, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett, for overstepping in her personal life.

"She was smart, talented and eager to learn," Cuomo said of Bennett. "She identified herself to me as a survivor of sexual assault ... She talked about the personal trauma that she endured and how she was handling it. I could see how it had affected her. I could see her pain."

Cuomo said that Bennett's story "resonated deeply" with him as one of his own family members was a sexual assault survivor, leading him to want to "help" Bennett.

"I did ask [Bennett] questions I don't normally ask people," Cuomo said. "I did ask her how she was doing and how she was feeling. And I did ask questions to try and see if she had positive support of dating relationships."

"Charlotte, I want you to know that I am truly and deeply sorry," he continued. "I brought my personal experience into the workplace and I shouldn't have done that. I was trying to help. Obviously, I didn't. I am even more sorry that I further complicated the situation. My goal was the exact opposite. I wish nothing but good for you and all survivors of sexual assault."

Bennett revealed in February that she had filed a sexual harassment claim against Cuomo last year after he made multiple sexual overtures toward her, including asking whether she had sex with older men.

Other inappropriate comments Cuomo made to Bennett included telling her to get a tattoo on her butt instead of on her shoulder and singing the Contours' song "Do You Love Me" during a phone call conversation, according to the investigation.

Cuomo defended himself against the claims on Tuesday, saying that Bennett and her lawyer have "read into comments I made and draw inferences I did not make."

"They heard things I just didn't say," he added.

The governor also described his actions as gestures he simply makes to everyone, regardless of gender, to put them at ease. His words played over a montage that showed him kissing and hugging people, and touching their faces.

"I do kiss people on the forehead. I do kiss people on the cheek. I do kiss people on the hand," Cuomo said. "I do embrace people. I do hug people. Men and women. I do on occasion say 'ciao bella.' On occasion, I slip and say 'sweetheart' or 'darling' or 'honey.'"

Cuomo also pointed out political biases, saying: "Remember where we are. Today we are living in a super heated, if not toxic political environment. That shouldn't be lost on anyone. Politics and bias are interwoven throughout every aspect of this situation."

The governor, who made no mention of resigning despite several lawmakers calling for him to step down, wrapped up his message by pivoting back to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Cuomo's reaction to the sexual harassment investigation came two hours after James announced the findings of the report.

James said Cuomo's conduct "corrodes the very fabric and character of our state government and shines light on injustice that can be present at the highest levels of government."

Investigators wrote in the report that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 current and former female staffers by "engaging in unwelcome and nonconsensual touching, as well as making numerous offensive comments of a suggestive and sexual nature."

Several staffers interviewed by investigators described a toxic and abusive workplace environment that enabled a culture rife with inappropriate flirting, sexually suggestive comments, intimidation, and fear.

The report also found that the governor's office violated its own policies in terms of reporting sexual misconduct allegations.

The report itself does not have any criminal consequences for Cuomo.

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