Cuomo: ‘Some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 February 2021 at 6:40 pm

Governor asks AG for independent review of allegations

Photo from Governor’s Office: Andrew Cuomo presents his executive budget last month in Albany.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, facing a backlash after two former aides accused him of sexual harassment, supports having Attorney General Tish James select a qualified private lawyer to do an independent review of the allegations against the governor.

The independent lawyer would be legally designated as a Special Independent Deputy Attorney General and granted all powers provided under Section 63(8) of the Executive Law, said Beth Garvey, special counsel and senior advisor to the governor.

She issued a statement at 5:31 p.m. after growing calls for at least an independent review of the allegations. Rob Ortt, the Sate Senate Republican leader, is urging Cuomo to resign.

Cuomo at 5:37 p.m. issued this statement:

“Questions have been raised about some of my past interactions with people in the office.

“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.

“At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I do, on occasion, tease people in what I think is a good natured way. 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.

“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. 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.

“That’s why I have asked for an outside, independent review that looks at these allegations.

“Separately, my office has heard anecdotally that some people have reached out to Ms. Bennett to express displeasure about her coming forward. My message to anyone doing that is you have misjudged what matters to me and my administration and you should stop now – period.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James released this statement at about 6:30 p.m., saying her office will hire an outside firm to do an independent investigation:

“We expect to receive a 63(8) referral with subpoena power to investigate allegations of sexual harassment against the governor, in line with our demands and New York state law. The referral would be made solely to the attorney general’s office. This is not a responsibility we take lightly. We will hire a law firm, deputize them as attorneys of our office, and oversee a rigorous and independent investigation.”