New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is facing new allegations of sexual harassment from a second former female aide.
First came former aide Lindsey Boylan, who months ago called working for Cuomo “toxic,” and called Cuomo out on last week in an essay on Medium in which she accused the governor of telling her wanted to play strip poker with her. Boylan also has said Cuomo tried to kiss her
“I hope that sharing my story will clear the path for other women to do the same,” she wrote.
It appears to have done the trick. On Saturday, The New York Times quoted former Cuomo aide Charlotte Bennett, 25, as saying Cuomo sexually harassed her by asking about her sex life and any romantic interests she might have in a relationship with an older man.
Cuomo, whose administration is already embroiled in fighting off criticism that it covered up the extent of the deaths of home residents in the COVID-19 pandemic, told The Times that he “never made advances toward Ms. Bennett, nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate.”
But Bennett insisted that during a June 5 meeting with Cuomo, he went over the line multiple times.
“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett said. “And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”
Bennett said she spoke up to highlight how Cuomo “wields his power.”
Bennett, who joined the Cuomo administration in 2019, said that even before her watershed interaction with him in June, he asked probing, personal questions.
“I saw him more as a father figure,” she said. “I wasn’t thinking about it as anything sexual.”
Then came a May 15 interaction. Bennett told The Times she’d arrived at the Capitol about 7 a.m. to find Cuomo already there. He engaged her in “gossipy” conversation, The Times reported, asking if she was involved with other members of the staff. When she mentioned she was scheduled to give a speech at her college alma mater about being the survivor of a sexual assault, she told The Times, the governor harped on the point.
“The way he was repeating, ‘You were raped and abused and attacked and assaulted and betrayed,’ over and over again while looking me directly in the eyes was something out of a horror movie,” she wrote in a text message to a friend that was quoted by The Times. “It was like he was testing me.”
She told the Times that she now views everything in her relationship with the governor prior to that date as “grooming.”
Then came a June meeting between Bennett and Cuomo that included, according to the Times, “questions about her personal life, including whether she was romantically involved, whether she was monogamous in her relationships and whether she had ever had sex with older men.”
Bennett told the Times that Cuomo told her that his former girlfriend, celebrity chef Sandra Lee, was “out of the picture,” and that Cuomo spoke of “wanting a girlfriend, preferably in the Albany area.”
“He asked me if I believed if age made a difference in relationships and he also asked me in the same conversation if I had ever been with an older man,” Bennett told The Times, noting the Cuomo told her “he’s fine with anyone above the age of 22.”
She said that point came up when they had spoken about her upcoming 25th birthday.
According to The Times, Bennett was asked if she thought Cuomo’s remarks were “an entreaty to a sexual relationship.”
“That’s absolutely how it felt,” she responded.
The Times report continued:
“Ms. Bennett said that she had felt deeply uncomfortable with Mr. Cuomo’s comments and had tried to shift the conversation into more neutral territory — something ‘not about my sex life,’ she recalled — like intellectual theories about monogamy and power dynamics, and even a tattoo she was considering getting.
“She said Mr. Cuomo had suggested that perhaps she should put the tattoo on her buttocks, so people would not see it when she wore a dress.”
After that June meeting, Bennett said she spoke to Cuomo’s chief of staff, Jill DesRosiers, about the governor’s actions, and was transferred to another part of state government. Bennett left New York state government in November.
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