Former aide Charlotte Bennett, 25, told The New York Times Saturday that the governor had asked questions about her sex life, whether she was monogamous and if she had ever had sex with older men.
On Saturday, Cuomo told the Times in a statement that he considered himself a “mentor” to Bennett and that he “never made advances toward Ms. Bennett, nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate.”
But on Sunday, he modified his response.
“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,” Cuomo said in his statement.
“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.”
The governor’s statement said that at work, “sometimes I think I am being playful” and that he means “no offense and only attempt to add some levity and banter to what is a very serious business.”
He added: “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.”
Bennett, who was an executive assistant and health policy adviser in the Cuomo administration until last November, said the 63-year-old governor at one point last summer told her when they were alone in his office that he was open to relationships with women in their 20s.
She said that he also complained then of being lonely during the pandemic, saying, “I can’t even hug anyone.” Bennett recalled that when she replied that she missed hugging her parents, he responded: “No, I mean like really hugged somebody.”
Bennett told the Times: “I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me ... [I] was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”
She said she discussed the encounter with Cuomo’s chief of staff and a special counsel to the governor and was given a new role on the other side of the state Capitol.
Bennett decided not to press for an investigation and to “move on,” the Times reported.
Her revelation followed sexual harassment accusations against Cuomo late last year by Lindsey Boylan, a former state economic development official. Boylan alleged that the governor sexually harassed her several times from 2016 to 2018.
Bennett responded to Boylan’s tweet about her Medium article by saying it showed “what it’s like to work for the Cuomo” administration.
Cuomo initially said Saturday that he would launch a review of the women’s allegations by a former federal judge. But on Sunday, New York Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and other lawmakers echoed New York Attorney General Letitia James’ call to be given full power to investigate the allegations.
Cuomo’s office later issued a statement Sunday evening saying that it had asked James to “select a qualified private lawyer to do an independent review of allegations of sexual harassment.”
The Governor’s office “wants a thorough and independent review that is above reproach and beyond political interference,” the statement noted.
James responded: “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.”