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Cuomo Offers Apology, Says He's Staying

In this image taken from video from the Office of the N.Y. Governor, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, March 3, 2021, in Albany, N.Y.
Office of the N.Y. Governor
In this image taken from video from the Office of the N.Y. Governor, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, March 3, 2021, in Albany, N.Y.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for the first time publicly addressed sexual harassment accusations against him, saying he did not intend to make anyone uncomfortable and that he is truly sorry. Many are calling for his resignation, including some members of Cuomo’s own Democratic party, but the governor said he’s not leaving.

At times welling with emotion, Cuomo looked into the camera and offered an apology to all New Yorkers, and to the women who say he harassed them.

“I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” Cuomo said. “It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly I am embarrassed by it.”

Cuomo said he never touched anyone inappropriately. And he said he’s learned from the experience and promises that he will be “the better” for it.

Two former aides, Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett, said the governor engaged in a range of inappropriate behaviors, which included touching, an unsolicited kiss, intrusive questions about dating habits, and whether sleeping with an older man would be an option, as well as an invitation to play strip poker.

The apology did not differ substantially from one he issued in a statement on Sunday evening, and one that Bennett has already said she does not accept, saying the governor is not taking responsibility for “predatory behavior.”

A third woman, Anna Ruch, produced a photo that showed the governor, who she did know, holding her face in his hands at a wedding. She said he then asked if he could kiss her.

Cuomo said hugging and kissing women and men as a form of greeting is a custom he learned from his father, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, but he said he now understands it is no longer acceptable.

“It could intend no offense, but if they were offended by it, then it was wrong,” Cuomo said.

State Attorney General Letitia James is conducting an investigation with subpoena powers. Cuomo, after some initial resistance, agreed to the probe, and said he and his office will cooperate fully. He asked everyone to withhold judgement until the AG’s report is completed.

“I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts of the Attorney General’s report before forming an opinion,” he said.

A growing number of elected officials have called on Cuomo to resign, but the governor said he doesn’t plan to. He said there’s too much to do right now and he needs to stay at his job. “I’m not going to resign,” said Cuomo who said he needs to stay to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, revive the state’s damaged economy and complete a state budget.

Cuomo also faces a federal investigation over his office’s handling of nursing home policies during the pandemic.

Legislative leaders, increasingly discontent with Cuomo’s behavior, announced an agreement Tuesday to strip Cuomo of the emergency powers they granted to him during the pandemic. In the future, all major directives that concern activities including opening and closing businesses, and requiring the wearing of masks, will have to be done in consultation with the Senate and the Assembly. The governor said he agrees to the new restrictions, and will abide by them.

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.