New York governor Andrew Cuomo apologized on Wednesday at his first press briefing since being accused of sexual harassment by multiple women, but said he would not resign from office.
“I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional, and I truly and deeply apologize for it,” Cuomo said. The governor insisted that he “never touched anyone inappropriately” and “certainly never ever meant to hurt anyone….That is the last thing that I would have wanted.”
Cuomo added, “I ask the people of this state to wait for the attorney general’s report to form an opinion.”
Three women, including two former aides, have have come forward over the past week to accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment. In one incident the governor allegedly kissed an aide on the lips without consent, while another aide said Cuomo asked intrusive questions about her sex life, including whether she would be willing to have sex with an older man.
On Monday the governor’s office granted New York attorney general Letitia James the power to conduct an independent investigation into the matter. James has promised to publish the results in a public report.
Cuomo told reporters at the Wednesday briefing that he would not step down.
“I don’t think today is the day for politics,” Cuomo said. “I’m not going to resign.”
The briefing came on the same day that Senior Cuomo adviser Gareth Rhodes confirmed he would transfer to a position at the state’s Department of Financial Services, which is outside the purview of the governor’s office. Cuomo officiated at Rhodes’s wedding in 2019, where Anna Ruch alleged that the governor made an unwanted advance at her.
Cuomo signed a bill into law in 2019 that lowered the burden of proof for sexual harassment cases, deeming any offense that rises above “petty slights and trivial inconveniences” potentially actionable. The bill also eliminated the requirement that victims file formal complaints with their employers before seeking redress in court.
The governor is also under fire for covering up the consequences of a policy he instituted during the early days of the pandemic that required nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients returning from hospitals, which state attorney general Letitia James found likely contributed to 50 percent more deaths than the Cuomo administration initially reported.