Charlotte Bennett, a former aide to New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), said she thought the governor was propositioning her for sex when he asked her questions about her sex life, according to an exclusive interview with Norah O’Donnell of CBS Evening News.
In the interview, which aired Thursday night, Bennett said that she felt “deeply uncomfortable” and wanted to “get out of this room as soon as possible” in her encounters with Cuomo. Bennett said the inappropriate conversations started last May, after she had shared that she was a sexual assault survivor and also around the time Cuomo was getting national attention for his coronavirus response.
“I think he felt like he was untouchable in a lot of ways,” Bennett told O’Donnell, adding that Cuomo became fixated on her past sexual assault. In June, Bennett said, Cuomo asked whether she was “sensitive to intimacy” in a conversation that took place in his office during the work day.
“He asked me if age difference mattered. He also explained that he was fine with anyone over 22,” said Bennett, who added she is 25. “I thought he was trying to sleep with me. The governor is trying to sleep with me. And I’m deeply uncomfortable and I have to get out of this room as soon as possible.”
“Without explicitly saying it, he implied to me that I was old enough for him and he was lonely,” Bennett told O’Donnell, when asked what made her think Cuomo was trying to sleep with her.
Bennett told O’Donnell that, in the moment, she responded honestly to Cuomo’s questions and that was where she “held the most shame” and what made her hesitate the most to come forward.
“I feel like people put the onus on the woman to shut that conversation down and by answering I was somehow engaging in that or enabling it, when in fact I was just terrified,” Bennett said. “I didn’t feel like I had a choice ... He’s my boss. He’s everyone’s boss.”
The interview with O’Donnell was Bennett’s first televised one since she went public with her accusations against Cuomo. Bennett had told the New York Times that the governor asked whether she had slept with older men and told her that he would be interested in relationships with women in their 20s.
O’Donnell said Bennett described the work environment in Cuomo’s administration as “toxic” and that the governor is a “textbook abuser.”
Cuomo has denied he has inappropriately touched or propositioned anyone. Facing multiple accusations of sexual harassment and growing pressure to resign, Cuomo on Wednesday said he would not resign and offered a new apology for his behavior with women. He previously claimed some of what he did was “misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.”
In her CBS interview, Bennett said what Cuomo offered was not an apology.
“It’s not an issue of my feelings. It’s an issue of his actions,” she said. “The fact is that he was sexually harassing me and he has not apologized for sexually harassing me.”