(CNSNews.com) – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday denied that he sexually harassed multiple women despite what the attorney general investigation has found.
“First, I want you to know directly from me that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances. I am 63 years old. I have lived my entire adult life in public view. That is just not who I am, and that’s not who I have ever been,” he said.
In a videotaped response to the New York Attorney General Letitia James’ report, the governor said that he kisses everyone – “black and white, young and old, straight and LGBTQ, powerful people, friends, strangers, people who I meet on the street” – something he said he learned from his mother.
A montage of photos played of the governor touching people’s faces and kissing them, including former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore.
He defended his conduct with one accuser, Charlotte Bennett, saying that he was misunderstood.
There is one complaint that has been made that bothered me most. That was a complaint made by a young woman Charlotte Bennett who worked in my office, and it’s important to me that you fully understand the situation. Charlotte worked in my office last year as an assistant. She was smart, talented, and eager to learn. She identified herself to me as a survivor of sexual assault.
She said that she came to work in my administration because of all the progress we had made in fighting sexual assault. She talked about the personal trauma that she endured and how she was handling it. I could see how it had affected her. I could see her pain. People now ask me, why was I even talking to this young woman if I knew she was dealing with such issues? Why did I even engage with her? That is the obvious question and fair question and one I have thought a lot about.
The truth is that her story resonated deeply with me. I had heard the same story before with the same ugliness, the same injustice, the same damage. Not only had I heard the story before, I had lived with the story before. My own family member is a survivor of sexual assault in high school. I have watched her live and suffer with the trauma.
I would do anything to make it go away for her, but it never really goes away. I spent countless days and nights working through these issues with her and therapists and counselors. I’m governor of the state of New York, but I felt powerless to help and felt that I had failed her. I couldn’t take the pain away. I still can’t, and this young woman brought it all back. She is about the same age.
I thought I had learned a lot about the issue from my family’s experience, I thought that I could help her work through a difficult time. I did ask her questions I don’t normally ask people, I did ask her how she was doing and how she was feeling, and I did ask questions to try to see if she had positive supportive dating relationships.
I know too well the manifestations of sexual assault trauma and the damage that it can do in the aftermath. I was trying to make sure she was working her way through it the best she could. I thought I had learned enough and had enough personal experience to help her, but I was wrong.
I have heard Charlotte and her lawyer and I understand what they are saying, but they read into comments that I made and draw inferences that I never meant. They ascribe motives I never had, and simply put, they heard things that I just didn’t say. Charlotte, I want you to know that I am truly and deeply sorry. I brought my personal experience into the workplace, and I shouldn’t have done that. I was trying to help. Obviously I didn’t. I am even more sorry that I further complicated the situation. My goal was the exact opposite.
Cuomo denied a claim from another accuser who wishes to remain anonymous that he groped her.
“There was another complaint I want to address from a woman in my office who said that I groped her in my home office. Let me be clear. That never happened. She wants anonymity, and I respect that. So I am limited by what I can say, but her lawyer has suggested that she will file a legal claim for damages. That will be decided in a court of law. Trial by newspaper or bias reviews are not the way to find the facts in this matter. I welcome the opportunity for a full and fair review before a judge and a jury, because this just did not happen,” he said.
The governor said he accepts “responsibility” and plans to design a new sexual harassment policy and train everyone on his team, including himself.
“Now the state already has an advance sexual harassment training program for all employees including me, but I want New York state government to be a model of office behavior, and I brought in an expert to design a new sexual harassment policy and procedures and to train the whole team, myself included. I accept responsibility, and we are making changes,” Cuomo said.