Cuomo failed to change 'customary' touch-heavy style in years after #MeToo
FOX News correspondent Bryan Llenas joins 'Special Report' with the latest on the new allegation
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's own responses to sexual harassment allegations show that even if — as he claims — he did not intend to offend or harass anyone, he failed to alter his behavior even after the rise of the #MeToo movement.
After Charlotte Bennett accused him of making inappropriate comments to her on multiple occasions including asking about her sex life and telling her he was looking for a girlfriend, Cuomo did not deny the alleged behavior but claimed he did not mean anything by it. Following Anna Ruch's accusation that Cuomo grabbed her face and kissed her on the cheek without consent at a wedding, Cuomo said that was standard behavior for him.
"You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people. Men, women, it is my usual and customary way of greeting," Cuomo said at a press briefing last week.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo greets people after speaking at a vaccination site on Monday, March 8, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool) ((AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool))
That statement was an explanation for the alleged incident with Ruch in 2020, roughly three years after the #MeToo movement took hold following allegations against Harvey Weinstein in 2017. Bennett's claims were based on allegations from 2019. A new report by the Albany Times Union features allegations from a sixth accuser, a member of Cuomo's executive chamber staff, who claimed that Cuomo touched her inappropriately at the governor's mansion in late 2020.
At last week's briefing Cuomo apologized for the behavior that led to Bennett's allegations, saying that he "never knew at the time I was making anyone feel uncomfortable."
New York employment lawyer Misty Marris called Cuomo's excuse "absolutely absurd" from a legal standpoint.
"In a private sector job, he would have been terminated," said Marris, who conducts harassment training sessions required under New York law.
"Asking anyone about their personal sex life is black-and-white, clear-as-day violative of the law regardless of intent," Marris told Fox News. "The standard is whether a reasonable person would find the conduct offensive."
Marris called it ironic that it was Cuomo who signed laws in 2018 and 2019 that "significantly strengthen" protections for workers. These protections include "requiring training for sexual harassment which explicitly prohibits the exact conduct he has admittedly engaged in," she said.
Since the allegations against Cuomo came pouring in — adding pressure on top of the scandal surrounding nursing home deaths — several members of Cuomo's administration have announced their departures.
Most recently, Counsel to the Governor Kumiki Gibson announced she is leaving. Gibson's name is now on a list including press secretary Caitlin Girouard, interim policy adviser Erin Hammond, and COVID-19 Response Task Force aide Gareth Rhodes.