NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) formally referred allegations of sexual harassment against him to the state’s attorney general on Monday, a move that initiates an investigation of the veteran politician, who has come under fire after disclosures by two former aides who alleged misconduct.
The requisite referral letter was sent to the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), who will be tasked with finding outside investigators to head the probe of Cuomo’s alleged misdeeds involving two women who worked in his administration, a person familiar with the matter confirmed.
Initially, Cuomo resisted sending the review to James’s office, instead suggesting the state’s highest-ranking judge, Janet DiFiore, take up the issue.
Charlotte Bennett recently detailed her alleged experience with Cuomo to the New York Times, saying the third-term governor harassed her last spring during the peak of the state’s coronavirus response.
The 25-year-old told the Times that Cuomo, 63, delved into her personal life in inappropriate ways and sought her opinion on romantic relationships with significant age differences.
Another accuser, Lindsey Boylan, said last week in an essay published on Medium that Cuomo was inappropriately flirty on a flight back from an event across the state in 2017 and once kissed her on the mouth at his office in New York City.
Both women said they were uncomfortable and feared repercussions for brushing him off.
In a statement Sunday, Cuomo said he “never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm,” describing his actions as the result of his “playful” nature.
“I do, on occasion, tease people in what I think is a good natured way,” the statement read. “… 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.”
He added that he “never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody.”
Since the accusations were made, Cuomo has avoided public appearances. The revelations followed a controversy over whether his office purposely underreported nursing home deaths related to the pandemic.