New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio slammed Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) over his statements responding to sexual harassment claims by two former aides.
“He just clearly was letting himself off the hook from something that the women involved said sounded pretty terrifying,” de Blasio said Monday at a press briefing.
The mayor also suggested that Cuomo should step down if the allegations prove to be true.
“If someone purposefully tried to use their power to try to force a woman to have sex with him, of course that person should no longer be in public service,” de Blasio said.
Charlotte Bennett, a former aide to Cuomo, told The New York Times that the governor asked her inappropriate questions about her sex life, including whether she “had ever been with an older man.” Last week, former staffer Lindsey Boylan wrote in a Medium post that Cuomo had kissed her without her consent while she was working for him in 2018, and that he had asked her to play strip poker in 2017.
Cuomo, 63, denied Boylan’s allegations and said Saturday in a statement that he meant to be a mentor for Bennett, who is 25. In a statement the following day, Cuomo also said that “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.”
De Blasio said Monday that that was “not an apology.”
“He seemed to be saying, ‘Oh, I was just kidding around.’ Sexual harassment is not funny,” the mayor added.
Democratic New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand both called for an independent investigation into the sexual harassment claims, as did White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
Cuomo said Sunday that he would cooperate with an investigation by state Attorney General Letitia James.
De Blasio, who has had a tense relationship with Cuomo over school closings and other pandemic-related decisions last year, echoed calls for an investigation into the existing sexual harassment allegations and any others that could come out.
The mayor also called for a full investigation into COVID-19 deaths in New York’s nursing homes. A report from the state attorney general’s office accused New York of undercounting nursing home deaths, leading the state to officially revise its count.