New York governor

Andrew Cuomo stays quiet amid calls to quit over sexual harassment claims

State attorney general to investigate allegations against Cuomo

Neither Cuomo nor his spokespeople have commented on the latest allegation made against him Monday night.

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US PRESS GROUP

New York governor Andrew Cuomo has avoided public appearances for days as some members of his own party call for him to resign over sexual harassment allegations. The governor hasn’t taken questions from reporters since a 19 February briefing, an unusually long gap for a Democrat whose daily, televised updates on the coronavirus pandemic were must-see TV last spring.

He was last before video cameras on Thursday, when he introduced Joe Biden at a virtual meeting of the National Governors Association, which he chairs. He also participated Tuesday in the group’s conference call, which was off-limits to reporters.

Neither Cuomo nor his spokespeople have commented on the latest allegation made against him Monday night. A woman told the New York Times that Cuomo touched her lower back, then grabbed her cheeks and asked to kiss her at a September 2019 wedding.

Most leading Democrats have signaled they want to wait for the results of an investigation by the New York attorney general, Letitia James, into claims that Cuomo sexually harassed at least two women in his administration.

The state Democratic Party chair Jay Jacobs, a close Cuomo ally, said it’s “premature” to opine before the investigation concludes.

That inquiry has yet to begin. James said her office is working to hire an outside law firm to conduct it.

US congressman Hakeem Jeffries said New York’s congressional delegation in Washington has not met on the issue but “everyone is monitoring the situation closely”.

“Well these are very serious allegations and they require a very serious investigation,” Jeffries told reporters Tuesday. “I’m confident that Attorney General Tish James will get to the bottom of everything, release a report that’s fully transparent and then we can decide the best way to proceed thereafter.”

As of midday Tuesday, at least one Democratic Congress member from Long Island – Kathleen Rice – four state senators, several left-leaning Assembly members and the leaders of the progressive Working Families Party said they have already heard enough and that Cuomo should resign. Some suggested he be impeached.

The governor is also facing criticism for withholding, for months, a full accounting of the number of nursing home residents who died of Covid-19.

The leaders of the state assembly and senate, both controlled by Democrats, announced Tuesday the legislature will pass legislation to limit emergency powers related to the pandemic that they granted Cuomo last spring.

Cuomo’s existing Covid-19 mandates would remain in place but he wouldn’t be able to extend or tweak them without responding to questions from lawmakers, under a bill outlined by senate majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and assembly speaker Carl Heastie.

Both the legislature’s top leaders have said they support the attorney general’s investigation of Cuomo’s workplace conduct.

One former aide, Charlotte Bennett, 25, said Cuomo quizzed her about her sex life and asked whether she would be open to a relationship with an older man. Bennett rejected Cuomo’s attempted apology, in which he said he’d been trying to be “playful” and that his jokes had been misinterpreted as flirting.

Another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, said Cuomo commented on her appearance inappropriately, kissed her without her consent at the end of a meeting, and once suggested they play strip poker while aboard his state-owned jet. Cuomo has denied Boylan’s allegations.

The woman who spoke to the New York Times about Cuomo’s conduct at the wedding, Anna Ruch, hasn’t responded to request for comment from the Associated Press.

Ruch told the newspaper that when she removed Cuomo’s hand from her back, he called her “aggressive”, placed his hands on her cheeks and asked if he could kiss her. Cuomo then planted a kiss on her cheek as she turned away.

A photograph taken by a friend captured a look of discomfort on Ruch’s face as the governor held her face.

“I felt so uncomfortable and embarrassed when really he is the one who should have been embarrassed,” Ruch told the newspaper.

Bill de Blasio, the New York city mayor, who has had a contentious relationship with Cuomo for years, said Tuesday that if all the allegations against Cuomo are true, “he cannot govern”.

“He would not be able to govern, it’s as simple as that,” De Blasio said.

Asked by a reporter whether Cuomo should resume holding in-person events, De Blasio said: “I think all leaders have to answer tough questions from the media, regardless of whether it’s convenient.”

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