On Sunday, as the two women’s allegations gained increasing attention in the media, the governor’s office put out another statement. Cuomo acknowledged that “my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal” and that “some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as unwanted flirtation.” But he defended himself, writing, “At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny,” adding, “you have seen me do it at briefings hundreds of times.” He denied accusations of inappropriate touch and of propositioning sex, and called for an outside, independent review of the accusations.
What does Boylan, the first accuser, say happened?
In her Medium essay, Boylan writes that in 2016, after she started working for New York State, her boss told her that Cuomo had a “crush” on her. She provides screenshots from a 2016 email from another woman in Cuomo’s administration, in which the woman claimed that Cuomo had compared Boylan to his rumored ex-girlfriend, and said that Boylan was “better looking.” Boylan also writes that Cuomo started calling her by his rumored ex-girlfriend’s first name at work, and that “the Governor would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs.”
On a 2017 work trip, she writes, the governor asked her to play strip poker. In 2018, Boylan was promoted to Deputy Secretary for Economic Development and Special Advisor to the Governor—she writes she turned the job down until she was able to ensure keeping an office that was physically distant from Cuomo’s. During a one-on-one meeting while she was in that role, she wrote, he suddenly kissed her without her consent. “Governor Andrew Cuomo has created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected,” Boylan writes.
What about Bennett, the second accuser?
The second woman, Charlotte Bennett, told the Times that when Cuomo was her boss last summer, he would get the 25-year-old in one-on-ones and ask her personal questions about her dating life, specifically about dating older men. She said a week after an uncomfortable conversation with the governor about hugging, she told Chief of Staff Jill DesRosiers, and was transferred to a far-away office. She shared messages with the Times that she had sent to her parents and friends while she worked for Cuomo, complaining of the harassment.
Bennett and her mother thought that the governor was taking on the role of a mentor. But after she shared with him that she was a survivor of sexual assault, she said, he spoke about it in a deeply uncomfortable way. Later, she said, he started asking her questions about having sex with older men. She shared texts she’d sent to friends at the time, detailing these conversations. The governor, she said, asked her if she would date older men and encouraged her to get a tattoo on her butt. Frighteningly, the bulk of the harassment she says she experienced from Cuomo took place during the height of New York’s COVID outbreak—the time when the governor was receiving near-constant praise.
How has Cuomo responded?
Cuomo has denied all allegations of sexual harassment and physical assault, but put out a statement apologizing for making anyone feel uncomfortable, writing that, “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.”
After denying Boylan’s claims in December and Bennett’s claims in February, the governor suggested that a former federal judge should conduct a review of Boylan and Bennetts’ claims. After other leaders slammed this idea, Cuomo’s office announced that it would ask Attorney General Letitia James and the chief judge of the Court of Appeals to select an “independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation” to conduct the investigation. James responded in the negative, saying that the situation requires a “truly independent investigation,” one that would allow her to subpoena witnesses and documents, which is beyond what the governor’s office had called for. Finally, on Sunday night, the governor’s office put out a statement saying that James should choose a Special Independent Deputy Attorney General to investigate the claims.