Today Gov. Cuomo came out of hiding and held a press conference for the first time in a week. That situation was untenable as Cuomo’s nemesis, Mayor de Blasio, was eager to point out:
Cuomo last took questions from reporters during an audio-only phone conference call on Feb. 22, two days before a series of women — including two former aides — publicly accused him of sexual harassment.
Cuomo’s planned appearance comes amid plunging popularity and growing calls for his resignation from fellow Democrats, including US Rep. Kathleen Rice of Long Island.
On Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that “if the governor is to remain in office, he has to govern.”…
“If you’re not in a position to govern for any reason, if you’re incapacitated, whatever it is — of course, step aside and let someone else do it.”
So today Cuomo did resume governing by holding a press conference on the state’s COVID numbers. For 23 minutes he discussed everything from the number of deaths attributed to the virus to his plans for increasing the rate of vaccine distribution. And then he paused and said he wanted to “address the recent allegations that have been made against me.”
“I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it and frankly I am embarrassed by it,” he said. He added, “I never touched anyone inappropriately.” That statement is seemingly at odds with the allegations made by Anna Ruch who told the NY Times that Cuomo had made her uncomfortable at a wedding by placing his hand on her bare back and also on her face. It’s also at odds with the claim by Lindsey Boylan that Cuomo kissed her on this lips in his office.
Cuomo asked that people wait for the facts from the just started AG investigation before reaching any conclusions. Part of me thinks that’s a reasonable thing to ask. In general, people shouldn’t be tossed out of their jobs based on allegations that haven’t been investigated. However, as we all know, that’s no the approach Democrats have taken in the past. If it meant anything, “believe women” surely meant that they deserved the benefit of the doubt. But Cuomo has denied one set of allegations and claimed he was misunderstood with regard to two others. “I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone. I never intended it. And I will be the better for his experience,” he said.
After his statement he took about half a dozen questions from reporters. The very first question was whether he should maybe step aside. Cuomo rambled a bit over his previous talking points in response. The very next question was “Is this your way of saying I’m certainly not resigning?” He replied, “I’m not going to resign…I’m going to do the job the people of the state elected me to do.”
Later in the Q&A a reporter asked him who he was apologizing to. Cuomo clarified that he was specifically apologizing to the “young woman who worked here who said that I made her feel uncomfortable in the workplace. In other words, it sounds like the apology was direct to Charlotte Bennett. Bennett claimed Cuomo had asked her about her sex life and whether or not she “had ever been with an older man.”
Cuomo was also asked if he’d taken the same sexual harassment other state employees are required to take. He said he had. If so, it’s hard to see how he missed the section about not asking your employees about their sex lives. But he quickly moved on.
Finally his top aide Melissa DeRosa was asked how she felt about working for a man accused of harassment by three women. She repeated the call to wait on the AG investigation (which could take weeks) and then walked through a list of policies the governor supported that she said had helped women. It was a political answer to what was intended to be more of a personal question. In other words, she dodged the question. She didn’t vouch for his innocence or testify to her personal belief in his character.
And that was it. Cuomo closed the press conference and left. So to all the Democrats who have called on him to step aside, Cuomo’s answer was a firm no. Here’s the full press conference.
Update: The reviews are in and they are not good.
Ms. Bennett on Wednesday was similarly unimpressed by the governor, who at one point said he was specifically apologizing to “the young woman who worked here” but did not say her name.
“The governor’s press conference was full of falsehoods and inaccurate information, and New Yorkers deserve better,” said Debra S. Katz, a prominent harassment lawyer who is representing Ms. Bennett.
Ms. Katz added that she expected that the attorney general’s report would “demonstrate that Cuomo administration officials failed to act on Ms. Bennett’s serious allegations or to ensure that corrective measures were taken, in violation of their legal requirements.”
And there’s this from Lindsey Boylan:
How can New Yorkers trust you @NYGovCuomo to lead our state if you “don’t know” when you’ve been inappropriate with your own staff?
— Lindsey Boylan (@LindseyBoylan) March 3, 2021
She’s kinda, sorta calling him a liar on the whole I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong routine.