NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo addressed the mounting sexual harassment allegations against him Wednesday, saying he “never touched anyone inappropriately.”
“I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it,” he told reporters. “I feel awful about it and, frankly, I am embarrassed by it.”
Cuomo said he will “fully cooperate” with the attorney general’s investigation, adding he’s “learned an important lesson.”
The governor faces allegations from three women in their 20s and 30s, two who worked with him at different times.
The latest woman, Anna Ruch, met Cuomo at a wedding for one of his top aides, Gareth Rhodes. She claims to The New York Times the governor touched her face and kissed her inappropriately.
CBS2’s political reporter Marcia Kramer asked the governor about a photo that surfaced showing Cuomo holding Ruch’s face. He call it his “customary way of greeting.”
“You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people — women, men, children, etc.,” he replied. “What I also understand is it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter my intent. What matters is if anybody was offended by it.”
After the allegations surfaced Monday, Rhodes’ wife expressed support for Ruch on social media, saying “I am so proud of Anna for sharing her story. This pattern of behavior is completely unacceptable.”
Rhodes has left Cuomo’s office and returned to the state Department of Financial Services, CBS2’s political reporter Marcia Kramer learned Wednesday.
“I do not believe that I have done anything in my public career that I am ashamed of. I didn’t know that I was making her uncomfortable at the time. I feel badly that I did and I’m gonna learn from it,” the governor said Wednesday. “I understand that sensitivities have changed and behavior has changed, and I get it and I’m gonna learn from it.”
Members of his own party have called for him to resign, but party Chairman Jay Jacobs urged Democrats to wait before taking sides.
“I am not fast to just cast aside someone who has done so much for the state,” Jacobs told CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas. “I don’t agree with everything, and most certainly these allegations are disturbing.”
New York State requires employers to have a written sexual harassment policy and mandates annual training for employees. Cuomo signed the law in support of the #MeToo movement.
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Meanwhile, the governor is also on the verge of losing some of his emergency powers during the pandemic. The Legislature’s deal to scale back his executive powers could be voted on as early as Friday, while the move has been considered for weeks.