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Politics

Report: Cuomo Groped Female Aide in Governor’s Residence

ALBANY, N.Y. — An aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he groped her in the governor's residence, a newspaper reported Wednesday, in the most serious allegation made yet by a series of women against the embattled Democrat.

The Times Union of Albany reported that the woman, who it did not name, was alone with Cuomo late last year when he closed the door, reached under her shirt and fondled her. The newspaper's reporting is based on an unidentified source with direct knowledge of the woman's accusation. The governor had summoned her to the Executive Mansion in Albany, saying he needed help with his cellphone, the newspaper reported.

"I have never done anything like this," Cuomo said through a spokesperson Wednesday evening.

"The details of this report are gut-wrenching," Cuomo said, adding that he would not speak to the specifics of this or any other allegation, given an ongoing investigation overseen by the state attorney general.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said in a statement Wednesday night that no criminal complaint had been filed by the alleged victim to the Albany Police Department.

The three-term governor faces  harassment allegations from several other women and increasingly urgent calls for his resignation or impeachment from at least some fellow Democrats. Cuomo has repeatedly said he won't resign.

"He's openly said he will not resign. And with further mounting allegations that are deeply credible, we are in a position now where I think we should impeach," said Assembly member Jessica González-Rojas, a Democrat who had previously pushed for his resignation. 

The woman whose account was reported by the Times Union said Cuomo had touched her and made flirtatious comments on multiple occasions. According to the newspaper, her allegations came to light as Cuomo staffers watched the governor's March 3 news conference, his first after a new round of sexual harassment claims made in late February.

In it, he denied ever touching a woman inappropriately. The aide subsequently became emotional, and told a female supervisor who approached her about her encounters with the governor. At least one supervisor reported the allegation to an attorney in the governor's office Monday, the newspaper reported.

Prior to Wednesday's report, the allegations against Cuomo include a combination of claims that he made the workplace an uncomfortable place for young women, ranging from flirtatious comments to a nonconsensual kiss.

At least five accusers — Charlotte Bennett, Lindsey Boylan, Ana Liss, Karen Hinton and the latest accuser — worked for the governor in Albany or during his time in President Bill Clinton's Cabinet. Another, Anna Ruch, told The New York Times that she met Cuomo at a friend's wedding.

Bennett's attorney, Debra Katz, said in a statement released Wednesday evening that the latest allegations are "eerily similar" to the former aide's own story.

Bennett, 25, has said she was summoned to the Capitol on a weekend and left alone with Cuomo, who asked her for help with his cellphone. She has said Cuomo asked about her sex life and asked if she would be open to a relationship with an older man. Bennett did not allege that Cuomo tried to grope her.

"The Governor's sexual harassment, which Charlotte Bennett reported, was buried by his aides and never properly investigated," Katz's statement said. "Because of their enablement, another young woman was left in harm's way."

Cuomo has denied inappropriately touching anyone, but has said he is sorry if he made anyone uncomfortable and didn't intend to do so.

State Attorney General Letitia James has put together an investigative team to probe Cuomo's workplace conduct. The governor has called on lawmakers and the public to await the results of that investigation. Federal investigators are also scrutinizing how his administration handled data concerning COVID-19 outbreaks at nursing homes.

Cuomo has been under fire for weeks, beginning with revelations that his administration withheld details from the public about the pandemic's death toll among residents in state nursing homes. Scrutiny of the governor — who received accolades during the height of the coronavirus pandemic for leadership that yielded a book deal and calls for a national political career — intensified when former adviser Boylan, 36, reiterated harassment claims made in December, fleshing them out in a late February blog post.

It was unclear how much the latest allegation would further erode Cuomo's support in the Legislature. While several state legislators from both parties have called for Cuomo's resignation or impeachment, most had indicated  they will wait for the probe's conclusion.

Assembly member Pat Fahy, who had joined a group of female lawmakers urging New York to wait for the investigation to pass judgment on Cuomo, said she's now "torn" and plans to decide in the morning whether she'll call on him to resign.

"I don't think he's going to resign," the Democrat said. "But if all of this is true, If the investigation comes out saying this is credible, these are true, these have merit, I don't see how he can't."

Others who had previously called for Cuomo's impeachment reiterated their calls for him to go.

"How can we allow this man to lead our state? We must impeach," Democratic Assembly member Zohran Kwame Mamdani tweeted Wednesday night.

Republican Assembly member Mike Lawler on Twitter called Cuomo "a sexual predator" who should be charged.

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