NY Governor facing sexual assault allegations

Pauline Alterio, Reporter

TRIGGER WARNING: Talk of Sexual Assault

 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is facing one of the most turbulent events in his political career after five individual women, some of whom have worked closely with the leader, have come forward with accusations of sexual harassment and assault.

Under enormous public pressure to respond, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced on March 8 the appointment of employment discrimination lawyer, Anne L. Clark and former New York Attorney General Joon H. Kim, to lead the investigation into the accusations, saying in a press release, “We are committed to an independent and thorough investigation of the facts … [Kim and Clark] both have the knowledge and background necessary to lead this investigation and provide New Yorkers with the answers they deserve.”

While Cuomo has since apologized, the governor has adamantly called the claims about his behavior uncredible and spurred by political spite, and that the ideas of stepping down were “anti-democratic.” 

However, top Democratic figures have called out the leader, with some going as far as to suggest the resignation Cuomo opposes. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has called the allegations of each woman “deeply troubling,” but holds confidence in James’ investigation who are in the hands of individuals he believes to be “very capable.”

But who are the women behind the accusations Cuomo so doggedly denies?

Charlotte Bennet, for one.

Bennett is a 25-year old former aid of Cuomo’s, who has accused the leader of asking inappropriate questions of a harassing nature, including queries into Bennett’s sex life, specifically if the woman had had sexual interactions with older men. At one point, stated in an interview with the New York Times, the former aide believed Cuomo “wanted to sleep with me [Bennett], and [I] felt horribly uncomfortable and scared.” 

Bennett officially left Cuomo’s administration last November after she reported the incident to the governor’s Chief of Staff. According to the same New York Times interview,  an investigation into Bennett’s family corroborated the woman’s claims of speaking about the incident when it occurred with her family, which included text messages and emails.

Such accusations came on the heels of another former Cuomo aide’s, Lindsey Boylan, elaboration of previous sexual harassment claims of which she had filed against the governor. Boylan worked under the administration from 2015 to 2018, years where she detailed Cuomo had a “crush” on her; at one point going out of his way to “touch me [Boylan] on my lower back, arms, and legs,” and even forcibly kissing the woman in 2018, according to another New York Times interview.

Cuomo has since responded, calling Boylan’s accusations false and spurred by political gain; Boylan is currently running for Manhattan Borough President.

These are not the only two women to accuse the New York Governor of inappropriate conduct. In fact, three other women have come forward with their own stories, two more of them former aides. In a March 6 Wall Street Journal interview, Ana Liss shared her own story, alleging Cuomo kissed her on the hand and asked her questions surrounding her love life. However, the governor has provided insight, explaining these were his typical interactions with his staff. No other administration official –past or present– has yet to confirm this.

Elsewhere, former paid consultant to Cuomo, Karen Hinton, brought forth allegations of the governor summoning her to his hotel room in 2000 and giving her an unwanted “intimate embrace,” only stopping after Hinton resisted a second.

Cuomo denies this, calling it a falsehood made by a “longtime political adversary.”

Outside of the office, 33 year-old Anna Ruch claims she encountered Cuomo at a 2019 wedding, where the governor placed his hand on Ruch’s back and eventually moved it to her face, where Cuomo asked to kiss the woman. Ruch refused, and reported feeling “shocked and embarrassed.” 

The woman’s allegations were corroborated by a friend, who received text messages and photographs from Ms. Ruch.

Several days after the five women came forward, Cuomo claimed he routinely makes “playful” jokes in a “good-natured way” towards employees. Soon after, however, the governor stated he now “understand[s] that [he] acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable … It was unintentional and [he] truly and deeply apologize[s] for it.[He]I feel[s] awful and frankly embarrassed by it.” 

However, the governor continues to deny what his accusers allege, oftentimes brushing off his supposed past conduct as “usual and customary” behavior. 

Though the governor remains innocent until proven guilty, the team hired by Attorney General James retains far-reaching subpoena powers to access troves of documents, witnesses, and testimonies that could ultimately prove the validity of Cuomo’s past.