NEW YORK (NEWS10/WIVB) — According to a Monday report from the New York Times, a third woman has accused Gov. Andrew Cuomo of inappropriate behavior.
The story tells the account of Anna Ruch, now 33, who claims she met the Governor at a Sept. 2019 wedding reception. Ruch said that Cuomo placed his hand on her bare lower back, and when she removed his hand with hers, remarked that she seemed “aggressive” and put his hands on her cheeks and asked if he could kiss her.
This is the third woman to make harassment allegations against Gov. Cuomo but the first woman outside of the Cuomo administration to make such claims.
Charlotte Bennett, 25, told The New York Times the Governor asked her questions about her sex life, including if she had ever been with an older man. The former health policy advisor also stated Cuomo, 63, told her that he was “open to relationships with women in their 20s.”
Lindsey Boylan, 36, was the Governor’s first accuser. She initially made claims of sexual harassment in a tweet in December. She then published an article in February that detailed the alleged harassment where she accused Cuomo of suggesting they play strip poker while on his private jet and kissing her after a meeting.
Gov. Cuomo responded to Bennett’s and Boylan’s allegations in a statement made on Sunday. In it, he maintains that he never inappropriately touched anyone nor propositioned anyone. He said some of his actions may have been “misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.” He said he had teased people about their personal lives in an attempt to be “playful” but that he never meant to hurt anyone.
His full statement reads as follows:
“Questions have been raised about some of my past interactions with people in the office.
I never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm. I spend most of my life at work and colleagues are often also personal friends.
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. 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.
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. 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.
To be clear 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.
That’s why I have asked for an outside, independent review that looks at these allegations.
Separately, my office has heard anecdotally that some people have reached out to Ms. Bennett to express displeasure about her coming forward. My message to anyone doing that is you have misjudged what matters to me and my administration and you should stop now – period.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Bennett denounced the apology saying Cuomo “refused to acknowledge or take responsibility for his predatory behavior.”
NEWS10 ABC affiliate News 4 has reached out to the Governor’s office for a response to Ruch’s allegation.
In the meantime, New York Attorney General Letitia James was given a referral from the executive chamber to conduct an independent investigation into the women’s claims. AG James said she intends to hire a law firm and appoint a special deputy to investigate the harassment allegations.
The AG’s office is also working to decide if they will include Ruch’s story in the investigation. Both Bennett and Boylan showed their support for Ruch on Twitter.
Bennett wrote: “I stand with Anna Ruch. Anna — I hear you, I see you. I’m so sorry. His inappropriate and aggressive behavior cannot be justified or normalized. Thank you for your courage and strength. Here for you always.”
Boylan wrote: “This doesn’t make me feel validated. It makes me feel sick. I feel nauseous thinking about Anna’s experience. I am sending her love and light. Charlotte and I are with you, Anna.”