Cuomo’s political future in question amid sexual harassment allegations

Published: Mar. 1, 2021 at 6:38 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 1, 2021 at 6:54 PM EST
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is under fire after two former aides have come forward with sexual harassment allegations.

These allegations make most people uncomfortable and many didn’t want to talk about it on camera.

But they are very serious and could dash the governor’s hopes for extending his political career.

Over the last year, Cuomo has held daily COVID press briefings and won over many Americans looking for answers

“He benefited by giving the impression that he was the alternative to President Trump,” said Harvey Schantz, a political scientist at SUNY Plattsburgh.

People like 80-year-old Shirley Dubuque from Rouses Point, who relied on Cuomo to get her information.

“I just think that he’s doing a great job,” Dubuque said.

The Democratic governor emphasized he would be transparent with information. He followed the science and his approval rating last spring skyrocketed because of it.

“Levels that had not been seen before,” Schantz said.

In the last several weeks, those numbers are down as scandal after scandal has made its way to the surface.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence. You often see this when a politician is weakened,” Schantz said. “Some people call this the shark theory of politics-- that people smell blood in the water and see blood in the water and come out.”

Over the last month, a report from New York Attorney General Letitia James showed the number of deaths in nursing homes was nearly double what the state was reporting. Then, former deputy secretary of economic development Lindsey Boylan came forward saying Cuomo kissed her and made inappropriate comments. Now, a second aide, Charlotte Bennett, 25, a former health policy advisor, says the governor asked her inappropriate questions about her sex life.

“I think it’s a bunch of bull,” Dubuque said. “I think there’s been so much lately and people want to keep it going.”

Some people in the community are sticking with their governor while others said off-camera his actions are unacceptable.

The governor released a statement saying, in part, he never intended to cause harm or offend anyone. He said, “I acknowledge some things I have said have been misinterpreted as unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry.”

He denies allegations of unwanted touching or propositioning.

“This is not good for the governor,” Schantz said.

Cuomo granted permission to Attorney General Letitia James to start an independent investigation. James says all findings will be made public.

Schantz says Governor Cuomo’s hopes of securing a fourth term next year will rely heavily on the AG’s findings.

The full statement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-New York:

“Questions have been raised about some of my past interactions with people in the office.

“I never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm. I spend most of my life at work and colleagues are often also personal friends.

“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. 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.

“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.

“To be clear I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but these are allegations that New Yorkers deserve answers to.

“That’s why I have asked for an outside, independent review that looks at these allegations.

“Separately, my office has heard anecdotally that some people have reached out to Ms. Bennett to express displeasure about her coming forward. My message to anyone doing that is you have misjudged what matters to me and my administration and you should stop now - period.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-New York

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