(Bloomberg) --New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday he would not resign amid mounting scandals, but used his first public comments since sexual-harassment accusations arose to apologize for making women feel uncomfortable.
By Stacie Sherman and Keshia Clukey
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He urged the public to “wait for the facts” before making judgment. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, has been accused publicly by three women of inappropriate behavior, including two former aides and a complete stranger.
“I am not going to resign,” he said in a news conference that followed a coronavirus briefing. “I was elected by the people of New York. I’m going to do the job the people of the state elected me to do.”
The governor, 63, said he “fully supports” a woman’s right to come forward with sexual-harassment allegations, but denied he ever touched anyone inappropriately. He said he touches the faces of “men, women and children,” just like his father, former Governor Mario Cuomo, did.
“I never knew at the time I was making anyone feel uncomfortable,” he said. “I never meant to harm anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain.”
Cuomo, whose leadership during the early days of the coronavirus outbreak boosted his national profile and earned him the nickname “America’s Governor,” faces calls to resign and stands Friday to lose emergency powers granted to him during the pandemic when the legislature votes.
He has been under growing scrutiny since state Attorney General Letitia James released a damning report in January that found the state undercounted deaths tied to nursing homes by as much as 50% and issued state guidance that may have put health residents at risk. A top Cuomo aide admitted on a private call with lawmakers that the state withheld data because it was afraid of a federal investigation.
The governor has acknowledged mistakes in reporting of the data but has defended his decisions.
James has also been tasked with finding an outside attorney to look into the sexual harassment claims made by Charlotte Bennett, a former Cuomo aide, and Lindsey Boylan, a former top economic development official, about uncomfortable interactions with Cuomo. A third woman, Anna Ruch, subsequently described inappropriate behavior by Cuomo at a wedding, and a photo circulated of the governor, who she did not know, cupping her face.
“It is my usual and customary way of greeting,” Cuomo said. “By the way, it was my father’s way of greeting people. You’re the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable. You reach out to them.”