Sexual Harassment Case Against Cuomo Will Be Handled by Atty. General Letitia James

"Gov. Cuomo & Chairman Prendergast Ride E Train" (CC BY 2.0) by Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York

On Sunday, New York state Attorney General Letitia James, who in January released a report claiming that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration dramatically undercounted Coronavirus nursing home deaths, will have full control over the sexual harassment inquiry.

Attorney General Letitia James announced last Sunday that she expected to be granted a referral of Cuomo’s sexual harassment case that would give her office subpoena power and allow her to deputize an outside law firm to conduct a “rigorous and independent investigation” concerning the said allegation. This announcement happened after Cuomo made a statement on Sunday that he would grant her request. 

Senators Kristen Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, both senators from New York, called for the investigative power to be given to James “so that she can conduct a transparent and thorough investigation with subpoena power.”

According to the report by Democrat & Chronicle, Cuomo at first wanted to refer the issue to former U.S. district judge Barbara Jones, who worked with one of his former advisers. 

However, after the said idea was rejected, the paper reported that Cuomo wanted James to work with a judge that he appointed in order to better select a suitable independent attorney who will look into the case. 

A few hours later, James, together with other leading party officials, rejected Cuomo’s proposals for how an investigation should proceed. 

The Democrat & Chronicle also reported that at 5:30 pm on Sunday, the governor already agreed to give the power to investigate the matter to James. Neither James’ nor Cuomo’s office responded to the request for comments. 

Meanwhile, White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated that President Biden also agreed to have an independent review that should “move forward as quickly as possible.”

Last week, Cuomo was accused by a former aide, Lindsey Boylan, of sexual harassment through her essay posted on Medium. She also added that Cuomo allowed a “pervasive” culture of “sexual harassment and bullying” to happen in his office. 

Boylan also stated that during her more than 3 years of working in Cuomo’s administration, that the governor would “out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs.” She also wrote that the governor “forcibly kissed” her on the lips during a one-on-one briefing and proposed that they “play strip poker” during a plane ride. 

Another sexual harassment claim from Charlotte Bennet, who worked as an executive assistant and health policy adviser in Cuomo’s administration until she resigned in November, claimed that Cuomo”asked her questions about her sex life, whether she was monogamous in her relationships and if she had ever had sex with older men.”

In response to this, Cuomo’s office denied Boylan’s allegations. The governor stated that he never made these advances toward Bennett, “nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate.” Cuomo continued, “The last thing I would ever have wanted was to make her feel any of the things that are being reported.”

On Sunday, Cuomo also issued a statement to address the sexual harassment allegations. However, even the statement released was bashed by critics as “tone-deaf.”

The governor explained, “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.” He continued, “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.”

Cuomo also added, “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.”

This sexual harassment scandal is the second blow to Cuomo, and Attorney General Letitia James plays a central role in both allegations. 

Last month, James also stated that the Cuomo administration undercounted nursing home deaths in New York by as much as 50%. This allegation prompted Cuomo to appear before the House Oversight Committee. Meanwhile, s spokesman for Cuomo slammed the request as “empty political theater.”