New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has avoided public appearances for days as some members of his own party ask him to resign over allegations of sexual harassment.
The governor has not answered questions from reporters since a briefing on February 19, an unusually long gap for a Democrat whose daily and televised updates on the coronavirus pandemic were a must-see on television last spring.
It was his last before video cameras on Thursday when he introduced Joe Biden at a virtual meeting of the National Governors Association, which he chairs. He also participated in the group’s conference call on Tuesday, which was off limits to journalists.
Neither Cuomo nor his spokesmen have commented on the latest accusation made against him Monday night. One woman told the New York Times that Cuomo touched her small back, then grabbed her cheeks and asked him to kiss her at a wedding in September 2019.
Most leading Democrats have signaled that they want to await the results of an investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James into allegations that Cuomo sexually harassed at least two women in his administration.
State Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs, a close Cuomo ally, said it is “premature” to comment before the investigation is complete.
That investigation has yet to begin. James said his office is working to hire an outside law firm to carry it out.
US Congressman Hakeem Jeffries said the New York Congressional delegation in Washington has not met on the issue, but that “everyone is closely following the situation.”
“Well, these are very serious allegations and require a very serious investigation,” Jeffries told reporters Tuesday. “I’m sure Attorney General Tish James will get to the bottom of it all, publish a report that is completely transparent, and then we can decide how best to proceed.”
As of noon Tuesday, at least one Long Island Democratic congresswoman, Kathleen Rice, four state senators, several members of the left-wing Assembly, and leaders of the progressive Working Families Party said they had heard enough already and that Cuomo should give up. Some suggested that he be charged.
The governor also faces criticism for withholding, for months, a full count of the number of nursing home residents who died from Covid-19.
Senate and state assembly leaders, both controlled by Democrats, announced Tuesday that the legislature will pass legislation limiting the pandemic-related emergency powers granted to Cuomo last spring.
Cuomo’s existing Covid-19 mandates would remain in place, but he could not extend or modify them without answering questions from lawmakers, according to a bill outlined by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and the president of the Senate. the assembly, Carl Heastie.
Both leaders of the legislature have said they support the attorney general’s investigation into Cuomo’s workplace conduct.
A former assistant, Charlotte Bennett, 25, said Cuomo questioned her about her sex life and asked if she would be open to a relationship with an older man. Bennett rejected Cuomo’s attempted apology, in which he said he had been trying to be “playful” and that his jokes had been misinterpreted as flirting.
Another former assistant, Lindsey Boylan, said Cuomo commented on her appearance inappropriately, kissed her without her consent at the end of a meeting and once suggested that they play poker while aboard his state jet. Cuomo has denied Boylan’s allegations.
The woman who spoke to the New York Times about Cuomo’s conduct at the wedding, Anna Ruch, did not respond to a request for comment from the Associated Press.
Ruch told the newspaper that when she removed Cuomo’s hand from her back, she called her “aggressive”, put her hands on his cheeks and asked if he could kiss her. Cuomo then planted a kiss on her cheek as she walked away.
A photograph taken by a friend captured an uncomfortable look on Ruch’s face as the governor held his face.
“I felt very uncomfortable and embarrassed when actually he is the one who should have been embarrassed,” Ruch told the newspaper.
Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, who has had a contentious relationship with Cuomo for years, said Tuesday that if all the allegations against Cuomo are true, “he cannot govern.”
“He couldn’t rule, it’s that simple,” De Blasio said.
When asked by a reporter if Cuomo should resume holding events in person, De Blasio said, “I think all leaders have to answer tough questions from the media, regardless of whether it’s convenient.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism