New York, Mar 1 (efe-epa).- The office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday gave the green light to the state’s attorney general, Letitia James, to investigate sexual harassment accusations made against him by two women.
James announced that she had received an official letter giving her team the authority to mount an independent investigation of the accusations against Cuomo, who is a Democrat.
“We will hire a law firm, deputize them as attorneys of our office, and oversee a rigorous and independent investigation,” James said.
“This is not a responsibility we take lightly as allegations of sexual harassment should always be taken seriously,” she went on to say in her statement, adding that the referral letter said that the investigation’s findings will be “disclosed in a public report.”
The announcement comes after on Sunday James rejected a proposal by Cuomo to have her and the state’s top judge take charge of the investigation, and she emphasized that the law establishes that it is her office that must handle cases of this kind.
The New York governor was recently accused by two former aides of sexually harassing them when they worked for him.
The first complaint came from Lindsey Boylan, a former advisor to Cuomo and curent candidate for Manhattan borough president, who said that he harassed her on several occasions between 2016 and 2018, even going so far as to kiss her on the lips without her consent.
And last weekend Charlotte Bennett, who was a health policy advisor to Cuomo until last November, told The New York Times that the governor asked her if she was monogamous and if she had ever had relationships with older men.
The former advisor, 25, said that the governor, who is 63, told her that he was open to having a relationship with women her age, a remark that she interpreted as a clear proposal of a sexual relationship.
“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett told the daily.
Cuomo, to date, has denied the accusations of harassment, but on Sunday he publicly apologized, saying that “some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation,” saying that he was sorry for making “playful” remarks, but he denied ever inappropriately touching or sexually harassing anybody.
The politician said that he is used to making jokes and lighthearted comments with staffers and others, adding that now he is aware that, given his position, some of those remarks could have been too personal or otherwise offensive.
“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,” Cuomo said in his statement.
“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,” he said, adding that he realizes that he “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,” he said.
On Monday, however, Bennett emphasized that Cuomo continues to refuse “to acknowledge or take responsibility for his predatory behavior” and she encouraged other women who may have had similar experienced with him to come forward.
The accusations have put the popular Cuomo in a complicated political situation, with some members of his party urging that he be thoroughly investigated or calling for his resignation.