Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo apologized Sunday to anyone who misunderstood his “levity and banter” as “unwanted flirtation.”
The New York Democrat spoke out Sunday evening after two different former employees, Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett, accused him of sexual harassment in the workplace.
“Questions have been raised about some of my past interactions with people in the office,” the governor said in a statement. “I never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm. I spend most of my life at work and colleagues are often also personal friends.”
Cuomo said that sometimes at work he thinks he is “being playful” and making “jokes that I think are funny.”
“I do, on occasion, tease people in what I think is a good natured way,” he said. “I do it in public and in private. You have seen me do it at briefings hundreds of times. I have teased people about their personal lives, their relationships, about getting married or not getting married. I mean no offense and only attempt to add some levity and banter to what is a very serious business.”
The governor said that he understands now that some of his interactions “may have been insensitive or too personal” and that given his position, some of his comments may have made others uncomfortable.
“I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation,” he said. “To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.”
“To be clear I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but these are allegations that New Yorkers deserve answers to,” the governor said, noting that this is why he has asked for an independent review into the allegations.
“Separately, my office has heard anecdotally that some people have reached out to Ms. Bennett to express displeasure about her coming forward,” Cuomo said. “My message to anyone doing that is you have misjudged what matters to me and my administration and you should stop now – period.”
The New York governor had announced Saturday that former federal judge Barbara S. Jones would investigate the harassment allegations, though Jones had worked with longtime Cuomo adviser Steven M. Cohen after she left her position as judge, according to the New York Times.
Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett’s detailed accounts of sexual harassment by Gov. Cuomo are extremely serious and painful to read.
There must be an independent investigation – not one led by an individual selected by the Governor, but by the office of the Attorney General.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 28, 2021
Amidst criticism over his choice, Cuomo announced Sunday that New York’s attorney general Letitia James and Judge Janet DiFiore, who sits on New York state’s highest court, would jointly choose who would investigate the allegations.