A Rochester-area woman said Monday she felt “manhandled” when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave her an unwanted kiss in 2017.
Sherry Vill, 55, of the suburb of Greece said the incident took place while Cuomo was touring the region to inspect flood damage. Vill recounted the events of the day during a virtual news conference organized by attorney Gloria Allred.
Cuomo has been the target of multiple allegations of sexual harassment and claims by an aide that she was groped by the governor while on the job. Some Democrats have called upon Cuomo to resign, but he has said he will not.
During the news conference, Allred showed a photo taken from a video of Cuomo kissing Vill.
Sherry Vill: Cuomo Kissed Me Twice in ‘Overtly Sexual’ Manner https://t.co/JEIHbrGkXO
— TeaParty Trumper?? (@TeaPartyTrumper) March 29, 2021
Vill read a statement during the video session.
“Governor Cuomo went into my house with my husband’s son, along with his staff and some town officials. I came in shortly afterward. And when I walked in, I said to the Governor, ‘Do you think that we have to live like this?’ That’s when the governor looked at me, approached me, took my hand and pulled me to him. He leaned down over me and kissed my cheek,” she said.
“I was holding my small dog in my arms, and I thought he was going to pet my dog. But instead, he wedged his face between the dog and mine and kissed me on the other cheek and what I felt was highly sexual manner,” she said.
“I wasn’t expecting that at all. He said, ‘That’s what Italians do, kiss both cheeks.’ I felt shocked and didn’t understand what had just happened, but I knew I felt embarrassed and weird about his kissing me. I am Italian, and in my family, family members kiss. Strangers do not kiss, especially upon meeting someone for the first time,” she said.
She said that as the governor’s entourage was leaving, Cuomo stayed behind and told her she was beautiful.
“That made me feel even more uncomfortable. I felt as though he was coming on to me in my own home. The Governor and his staff proceeded to view the damages outside of the house. I purposely did not follow because I felt uncomfortable given what had just happened in my living room. I walked out the front door and stayed in the front of the house, away from them,” she said.
Lawyer for Gov. Cuomo releases statement as new accuser says governor ‘aggressively’ kissed cheeks https://t.co/zF2B0YWOMt
— Eyewitness News (@ABC7NY) March 29, 2021
She described one more encounter with Cuomo that took place outside of her house.
“He took my hand and said, ‘Is there anything else you want?’ I didn’t know how to respond. He then leaned down on top of me, and while still holding one of my hands, he forcibly grabbed my face with his other big hand and kissed my cheek, again in a very aggressive manner.
“I felt like I was being manhandled, especially because he was holding my face and he was kissing my cheek again. I could not use my other hand to stop him because he did it so quickly and I also was holding my dog with my other hand,” she said.
“The way he looked at me and his body language made me very uncomfortable. I felt he was acting in a highly flirtatious and inappropriate manner, especially in front of my family and neighbors.”
Vill said that after the incident, she received a call to attend an event in the area Cuomo was attending. She noted her family was not invited, only her.
“I felt very uneasy about the call. I was the only one that received the call in the personal invite from the Governor,” she said, noting that she also received photos of Cuomo’s visit to her house. “The whole thing was so strange and inappropriate and still makes me nervous and afraid because of his power and position.”
Vill said she does not believe this was innocent.
“I have been in business for many years and routinely interact with male customers and vendors. I know the difference between an innocent gesture and a sexual one. I never felt as uncomfortable as I did the day that Governor Cuomo came to my home,” she said.
“His actions were very overly sexual, highly inappropriate, and disrespectful to me and my family. The Governor’s actions have continued to bother me, and I have expressed that to my family many times in intervening years. However, I was always afraid to report it. I am still afraid of him, but I am no longer willing to remain silent. And that is why I am coming forward today.”
Later in the news conference, Allred said that she will be in touch with state Attorney General Letitia James, who is investigating the sexual harassment claims against Cuomo.
Cuomo’s office replied to the allegation in a statement dismissing the claim as part of the way Cuomo greets everybody.
“During times of crisis, the governor has frequently sought to comfort New Yorkers with hugs and kisses,” Glavin wrote in the statement. “As I have said before, the governor has greeted both men and women with hugs, a kiss on the cheek, forehead or hand for the past forty years. I encourage everyone to look at other photographs from his visit to Greece, NY that day,” Rita Glavin, a lawyer for Cuomo, said in response, according to Syracuse.com.
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