A 25-year-old former aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has accused him of sexual harassment, called the Democrat a “textbook abuser” in a new interview that aired Friday.
“He is a textbook abuser,” former aide Charlotte Bennett told CBS’ Norah O’Donnell. “He lets his temper and his anger rule the office, but he was very sweet to me for a year in the hopes that maybe one day, when he came onto me, I would think we were friends or that it was appropriate or that it was okay.”
Cuomo has apologized after claims from multiple women in recent days that he acted sexually inappropriately towards them, but has denied he was trying to proposition them. It also comes as he faces another brewing scandal over his handling of nursing home deaths during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Cuomo has said he won’t resign.
The focus on the Democratic governor comes as CNN has given the sexual harassment accusations against Cuomo more attention over the past two weeks, but initially, the liberal network and the governor’s brother, anchor Chris Cuomo, gave the controversies little to no airtime. Previously, the network gave Chris Cuomo free rein to conduct friendly, comical interviews with the governor, who wrote a book about successfully handling the pandemic in the middle of the pandemic.
Bennett also told O’Donnell — in an interview that first aired Thursday night — that she believed the 63-year-old governor propositioned her for sex during a workplace meeting.
“Without explicitly saying it, he implied to me that I was old enough for him and he was lonely,” Bennett said.
She said the governor, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, felt emboldened as his national profile rose amid his daily televised outbreak updates.
“I think he felt like he was untouchable in a lot of ways,” she told O’Donnell.
Bennett has alleged that the governor called her into his office on June 5 and told her he was lonely and looking for a girlfriend.
In parts of the interview, she reiterated claims she made when she came forward with her accusations to the New York Times earlier in the week. She accused the governor of asking her if age difference mattered and said he told her he was “fine” with anyone over 22 years old. Bennett is 25. The incident allegedly happened over the summer.
“I thought, he’s trying to sleep with me, the governor is trying to sleep with me,” she told O’Donnell. “And I am deeply uncomfortable, and I have to get out of this room as soon as possible.”
She also ripped into the governor’s attempt at a public apology, made as reporters grilled him during his first news conference in more than a week Wednesday.
“It’s not an apology,” Bennett said. “It’s not an issue of my feelings. It’s an issue of his actions. The fact is he was sexually harassing me and he has not apologized for sexually harassing me. And he can’t even use my name.”
Bennett, who said she had told the governor she was a sexual assault survivor, accused him of harping on that aspect of her background.
“He asked if I had trouble enjoying being with someone because of my trauma,” she said during the interview. “The governor asked me if I was sensitive to intimacy … during the workday.”
He was her boss, O’Donnell noted.
She said that due to the governor’s position, she felt like she didn’t have a choice and had trouble escaping the conversation.
“When I was even thinking of coming forward, I think that was when I had the most shame,” Bennett said. “I really was uncomfortable. … I feel like people put the onus on the woman to shut that conversation down, and by answering I was somehow engaging in that or enabling it. … It didn’t feel like I had a choice.”
During a news conference Wednesday — his first since three women came forward with allegations against him — Cuomo apologized, denied knowing that he was acting inappropriately and said he has “learned an important lesson.”
Another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, accused the governor of forcibly kissing her, publishing the allegations in an essay on Medium last week. And a third woman with no professional ties to the governor, Anna Ruch, accused Cuomo of making unwanted advances, touching her exposed lower back and asking to kiss her.
Debra Katz, an attorney for Bennett, said Wednesday that the governor’s remarks were “full of falsehoods and inaccurate information.”
“The governor repeatedly said he had no idea he made anyone uncomfortable,” Katz said. “My client, Charlotte Bennett, reported his sexually harassing behavior immediately to his chief of staff and chief counsel. We are confident that they made him aware of her complaint.”