Gov. Andrew Cuomo Responds to Second Former Aide's Accusation of Sexual Harassment
"I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared," Charlotte Bennett told The New York Times
A second former aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has come forward with accusations of sexual harassment against the politician.
On Saturday, in an interview published with The New York Times, Charlotte Bennett alleged that Cuomo, 63, harassed her last year while she was serving as an executive assistant and health policy adviser in the governor's administration, a position she later left in November.
Alleging that Cuomo had asked her a series of inappropriate questions about her personal life on one occasion, including her thoughts on age differences in romantic relationships and if she had ever had sex with older men, Bennett, 25, told the Times that she found the comments to be sexual in nature.
"I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared," Bennett said.
In a statement on Saturday, Cuomo denied Bennett's account, stating, "Ms. Bennett was a hardworking and valued member of our team during COVID. She has every right to speak out."
"When she came to me and opened up about being a sexual assault survivor and how it shaped her and her ongoing efforts to create an organization that empowered her voice to help other survivors, I tried to be supportive and helpful," Cuomo continued. "Ms. Bennett's initial impression was right: I was trying to be a mentor to her. I never made advances toward Ms. Bennett nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate. The last thing I would ever have wanted was to make her feel any of the things that are being reported."
"This situation cannot and should not be resolved in the press; I believe the best way to get to the truth is through a full and thorough outside review and I am directing all state employees to comply with that effort," the governor added. "I ask all New Yorkers to await the findings of the review so that they know the facts before making any judgements. I will have no further comment until the review has concluded."
Beth Garvey, special counsel and senior advisor to Cuomo, said in the same statement that former federal Judge Barbara Jones would be leading an independent review and that all the governor's staff "will cooperate in that endeavor."
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While speaking with the Times, Bennett also noted an occurrence where Cuomo complained to her about being lonely amid the COVID-19 pandemic, allegedly telling her that he "can't even hug anyone." Bennett claimed that Cuomo then looked at her and asked, "Who did I last hug?"
Trying to maneuver away from the question by sharing that she missed hugging her parents, Bennett alleged that Cuomo then said, "No, I mean like really hugged somebody?"
Bennett also told the Times that although the politician never tried to touch her, she told Cuomo's chief of staff, Jill DesRosiers, about the uncomfortable experience, before she was transferred to another job as a health policy adviser.
Bennett said she gave a statement to a special counsel to the governor, Judith Mogul, but did not move forward with an investigation into Cuomo as she "wanted to move on," according to the outlet.
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The allegations from Bennett come shortly after another former Cuomo aide, Lindsey Boylan, further detailed claims she made against the governor late last year, accusing him of mistreating her. Boylan expanded on her story in a lengthy post published on Medium last Wednesday.
Boylan — who worked for the Cuomo administration from 2015 to 2018, most recently as deputy secretary of economic development and a special adviser — alleged that he "created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected."
"There is a part of me that will never forgive myself for being a victim for so long, for trying to ignore behavior that I knew was wrong. The Governor exploited my weaknesses, my desire to do good work and to be respected," she wrote. "I was made to believe this was the world I needed to survive in."
Cuomo and his aides have vigorously denied Boylan's account. "As we said before, Ms. Boylan's claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false," spokeswoman Caitlin Girouard said in a statement last Wednesday.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.