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Cuomo denies claims of sexual harassment in state attorney general report, ignores calls to resign

"The facts are much different than what has been portrayed," Cuomo said in on-camera remarks, suggesting the investigation was tained by "bias."
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, just hours after the state attorney general's office on Tuesday released a damning report that found he sexually harassed multiple women, forcefully denied the allegations and ignored renewed calls for his resignation.

The facts “are much different” than those presented in the report, Cuomo said.

In a lengthy prepared statement streamed online, in which he singled out one of his accusers by name in order to respond to her claims, Cuomo said, “I want you to know directly from me that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.”

He accused “others” of having fed “ugly stories to the press,” and said his attorney had prepared a public document that responds to all 11 of the women whose allegations were investigated by New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office.

Cuomo’s strongly worded denial marked continuation of a posture that has hardened in recent weeks, with the embattled governor doubling down on his claims that he hadn’t harassed anyone and that the investigation itself was political in nature.

It also flew in the face of increasing calls from leading Democrats for Cuomo to step down, including President Joe Biden, who said Tuesday afternoon, "I think he should resign."

Biden had said in March that Cuomo should resign if the investigation into his conduct confirmed allegations of sexual harassment against him. Biden said Tuesday, "I stand by that statement."

A flood of Democratic lawmakers previously called for his resignation, including the vast majority of New York's congressional delegation, over 50 state legislators and Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader.

Later Tuesday, New York state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who in March authorized the chamber to launch an impeachment investigation into Cuomo, said the probe would continue advancing.

"It is abundantly clear to me that the Governor has lost the confidence of the Assembly Democratic majority and that he can no longer remain in office. Once we receive all relevant documents and evidence from the Attorney General, we will move expeditiously and look to conclude our impeachment investigation as quickly as possible," Heastie, a Democrat, said.

The investigation found that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women current and former state employees — one of whom is a New York State trooper. It also found the governor and his team retaliated against a former employee for coming forward. The investigators detailed in graphic terms instances of harassment they say Cuomo perpetuated, including making sexual comments and grabbing women.

In his statement, Cuomo singled out by name one of the women who accused him of harassment, saying that the allegations made against him by former aide Charlotte Bennett — who has said she is a sexual assault survivor — was the “one complaint that bothered me most.”

"I was trying to make sure she working her way through it the best way she could," Cuomo said, saying that her lawyers "read into comments that I made" and that Bennett herself may have "heard things I just didn't say."

Bennett told The New York Times in March that Cuomo had made several inappropriate remarks about her sex life, which she said she interpreted as an overture. Bennett, 25, has told NBC News that the Times report was accurate and declined to comment further.

As Cuomo spoke, a slideshow played showing photos of Cuomo — and his parents — touching friends and wedding guests on the face, which he suggested was an Italian custom that runs in the family. He also changed the subject by talking about the success of his state in reducing Covid-19 cases and suggested he would continue on in his work leading New York through the pandemic.

In the document released Tuesday by Cuomo's lawyer, Rita Glavin, Glavin claimed James' office "directed an utterly biased investigation and willfully ignored evidence inconsistent with the narrative they have sought to weave form the outset." She accused the investigators of having "ignored the Governor's testimony and substantial corroborating evidence."

The 85-page document included dozens of pages of photos of Cuomo hugging, kissing and touching other politicians, as well as photos of other politicians, including Biden and former President Barack Obama, making similar hugging and kissing gestures with others — an attempt to show that Cuomo's behavior was typical among the political elite.

Biden, when asked a question Tuesday about the use by Cuomo's attorney of a photo of himself as a method of self-defense, replied, "I'm sure there are some embraces that were totally innocent. But apparently the attorney general decided there were things that weren't."

The report from Cuomo's team responded to each of the 11 incidents investigated by James and took a different approach in explaining or denying each.

With Lindsey Boylan, a former deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to Cuomo who said he "sexually harassed me for years," Cuomo's lawyers insinuate that Boylan may have been attempting to drum up publicity for a run for Manhattan Borough President.

When it came to an unnamed administrative assistant who alleged he groped her under her shirt, Cuomo's lawyer wrote such a thing "never" occurred.

Other allegations made by other women, including Alyssa McGrath and Ana Liss, were "unremarkable" interactions, his lawyer wrote.

Cuomo, meanwhile, suggested during his statement that James' report was tainted by "bias" and portrayed himself during his remarks as a protector of women.

"For those who are using this moment to score political points, or seek publicity or personal gain, I say they actually discredit the legitimate sexual harassment victims that the law was designed to protect," Cuomo said.

He also said he would be bringing in to his office an "expert" in sexual harassment prevention training for all employees, including himself.

Cuomo, a Democrat in his third term, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing since allegations against him were first made public earlier this year.

Initially, in March, Cuomo acknowledged that he may have acted in ways that unintentionally made people feel uncomfortable and apologized. He also urged New Yorkers "to wait for the facts from the attorney general's report before forming an opinion.”

In recent months, however, Cuomo has grown more combative, and said he hadn't harassed anybody. In addition, he and his office have taken on an increasingly critical and aggressive posture against the probe being led by James, a fellow Democrat.

“Harassment is not making someone feel uncomfortable — that is not harassment. If I just made you feel uncomfortable, that is not harassment. That’s you feeling uncomfortable,” Cuomo said in May.

Cuomo’s team has also accused the investigation by James of being political.

Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Cuomo, said last month that "the continued leaks are more evidence of the transparent political motivation of the attorney general’s review.”