Democratic Lawmaker Calls for Cuomo's Resignation as Third Accuser Steps Forward
With one New York City tabloid dubbing him “Handsy Andy,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo found himself Tuesday at the center of a funnel cloud of controversy that threatened to sweep him from power.
The Democrat, who has been reeling from allegations of a coverup and mismanagement related to the deaths of nursing home residents from COVID-19, faced fire on another front after two former aides accused him of sexually inappropriate behavior.
Now a third woman has come forward to say Cuomo acted inappropriately toward her, alleging she was the recipient of an unwanted kiss and unwanted touching at a wedding reception.
The allegations have led to calls for the governor to resign. On Monday, Rep. Katherine Rice of New York became the first federal-level Democrat to do so.
The time has come. The Governor must resign. https://t.co/GjcvuNfpfQ
— Kathleen Rice (@RepKathleenRice) March 2, 2021
Last week, former aide Lindsay Boylan issued a post on Medium alleging Cuomo talked about playing strip poker with her. Boylan has said he tried to kiss her in 2018 when they were alone.
On Saturday, former aide Charlotte Bennett, 25, alleged that conversations with the governor in May and June made it clear to her he wanted sex with her.
Bennett’s revelation triggered a weekend free-for-all over who would investigate the allegation, which Cuomo lost.
The governor issued an apology Sunday in which he said he never meant to offend anyone with his “playful” ways. Then another woman came forward.
Anna Ruch, now 33, told The New York Times she was at a wedding reception in September 2019 when Cuomo approached her and touched her lower back, which was bare due to the dress she was wearing.
“I promptly removed his hand with my hand, which I would have thought was a clear enough indicator that I was not wanting him to touch me,” she said.
Cuomo called her “aggressive” and put his hands on her cheeks — a scene that was captured on a friend’s cellphone.
Breaking: A third woman has accused Cuomo of over-the-line behavior. Incredibly, a photographer caught the moment, and this look on her face: https://t.co/NnKCs1Y7WF pic.twitter.com/Smr4hNiKKp
— Jodi Kantor (@jodikantor) March 2, 2021
“He said, ‘Can I kiss you?’” Ruch told The Times. “I felt so uncomfortable and embarrassed when really he is the one who should have been embarrassed.”
She said she pulled away but was later told Cuomo made contact.
“It’s the act of impunity that strikes me,” Ruch said. “I didn’t have a choice in that matter. I didn’t have a choice in his physical dominance over me at that moment. And that’s what infuriates me. And even with what I could do, removing his hand from my lower back, even doing that was not clear enough.”
Later, after posing for a photo with Cuomo, she was approached by a friend, she said.
“It was when my friend looked at me and said ‘Are you OK?’ with such genuine concern in her face that I realized how obviously inappropriate it was, not only to me but to those around me as well,” Ruch said.
In a text message a day or two later, Ruch said, “I’m so pissed” over the incident, The Times reported.
“The photo pretty much sums it up. Gross. What the f—?,” she told the New York Post. “Every woman has to go through this in the 21st century.”
Alexa Kissinger, a former Obama administration staff member whose wedding reception was the backdrop to the incident, praised Ruch.
“This pattern of behavior is completely unacceptable,” she wrote on Instagram, according to the Post.
The report said Kissinger’s husband, Gareth Rhodes, currently works for the governor.
The Times said Cuomo’s office did not return calls for comment about the incident.
This doesn’t make me feel validated. It makes me feel sick. I feel nauseous thinking about Anna’s experience. I am sending her love and light.
Charlotte and I are with you, Anna. https://t.co/0ZSfeQkPQv
— Lindsey Boylan (@LindseyBoylan) March 2, 2021
I stand with Anna Ruch. Anna — I hear you, I see you. I’m so sorry. His inappropriate and aggressive behavior cannot be justified or normalized. Thank you for your courage and strength. Here for you always. https://t.co/EkxV05VPVX
— Charlotte Bennett (@_char_bennett_) March 2, 2021
Although Cuomo issued a statement on Sunday seeking to label Bennett’s allegations a misunderstanding, Bennett blasted that in a statement of her own Monday.
“As we know, abusers — particularly those with tremendous amounts of power — are often repeat offenders who engage in manipulative tactics to diminish allegations, blame victims, deny wrongdoing and escape consequences,” she said in a statement, according to the Post.
“It took the governor 24 hours and significant backlash to allow for a truly independent investigation,’’ Bennett said. “These are not the actions of someone who simply feels misunderstood; they are the actions of an individual who wields his power to avoid justice.’’
“The governor has refused to acknowledge or take responsibility for his predatory behavior,” she said.
Many New York politicians castigated Cuomo on social media.
The Governor of New York must RESIGN.
He is a pervasive criminal sexual predator.
— Elise Stefanik (@EliseStefanik) March 2, 2021
Buenos días! Good luck to all the candidates petitioning today. It’s also a great day for the governor to resign ??♀️
— Jessica Ramos (@jessicaramos) March 2, 2021
#BREAKING: Tonight I issued a statement regarding assertions of sexual harassment against Governor Cuomo.
As a New Yorker, a legislator, Chair of the Senate Ethics and Internal Governance Committee, and a survivor of sexual abuse, I am calling for Governor Cuomo to resign. pic.twitter.com/2aKiN8CIkR
— Alessandra Biaggi (@SenatorBiaggi) February 28, 2021
New York Attorney General Letitia James said her office will issue a public report on the allegations against Cuomo, according to CNN.
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