Cuomo Casts Doubt on Accusations, Says There’s ‘No Way I Resign’

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday offered his most defiant rebuttal of calls for his resignation, as he attempted to brush off or cast doubt on two new accusations of unsettling encounters with women.

In a conference call with reporters, Mr. Cuomo said that he would not be distracted by the accusations, arguing that he was elected by the people, not “by politicians.”

“I’m not going to resign because of allegations,” the governor said, calling the notion “anti-democratic,” and a violation of the due process clause of the Constitution. “There is no way I resign.”

Mr. Cuomo also suggested that some of the allegations against him — now made by five women, spanning two decades — lack credibility. “Anybody has the ability to make an allegation in democracy, and that’s great,” he said. “But it’s in the credibility of the allegation.”

The governor took particular issue with an account made in The Washington Post by Karen Hinton, a former aide, of an attempted sexual encounter in a hotel room in 2000, which she said she resisted.

“Every woman has a right to come forward. That’s true. But the truth also matters. What she said is not true,” Mr. Cuomo said of Ms. Hinton. “She has been a longtime political adversary of mine.”

On Sunday, Ms. Hinton said in a statement to The New York Times that “truth is the ‘longtime adversary’ that Cuomo fears the most.”

“Trump may be gone, but Cuomo has stepped right into his shoes by blaming the abused for his own abusive behavior,” she added.

The governor reiterated his call for New Yorkers to withhold judgment until an inquiry overseen by the state attorney general, Letitia James, could examine the allegations, a process that could stretch on for months.

He said those seeking his resignation, including some Democratic lawmakers in Albany and Representative Kathleen Rice, a Long Island Democrat, before a full investigation had been completed were doing so for political reasons.

“I have a news flash for you: There is politics in politics,” Mr. Cuomo said, laughing a little at his own joke, saying he had political differences with those saying he should resign. “They don’t override the people’s will. They don’t override elections.”

But the scrutiny over Mr. Cuomo’s behavior — and a separate firestorm over his top aides concealing veri on nursing home deaths — has already altered the balance of power in New York, loosening Mr. Cuomo’s evvel firm grip on state governance.

On Friday, the Democratic-dominated Legislature voted to curtail the sweeping emergency power it granted Mr. Cuomo at the start of the pandemic last spring; a day later, The Times Union of Albany, the capital’s most influential newspaper, called on Mr. Cuomo to resign over his handling of nursing homes.

Mr. Cuomo said he would sign the Legislature’s measure limiting his own powers. Lawmakers will now have the ability to review and comment on any changes to pandemic guidance — such as his decision, which he announced on Sunday, to increase restaurant capacity outside of New York City to 75 percent.

The two additional reports by women of uncomfortable encounters with the governor emerged on Saturday night: one from Ms. Hinton and the other by a former staffer, Ana Liss.

Ms. Liss told The Wall Street Journal that the governor had made her uncomfortable with questions about her romantic life, as well as a kiss on the hand. On Sunday, Ms. Liss said on Twitter she shared her story because she believed it “may help bolster those shared by other women.”

“This is just ‘how things are’ for women in Albany, in politics, in any high-pressure workplace,” she wrote. “I think we deserve better.”

Mr. Cuomo said that exchange was consistent with his general comportment with his staff — an explanation that he has used when asked about the accounts of questionable behavior with the women who have come forward in recent days.

“I say to people in the office, ‘How are you doing? How’s everything? Are you going out? Are you dating?’” Mr. Cuomo said when asked of Ms. Liss’s accusations. “That’s my way of doing friendly banter.”

Another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, a former top economic development official in the Cuomo administration, had previously accused Mr. Cuomo of sexual harassment, saying the governor had evvel invited her to play “strip poker” and given her an unwanted kiss on the lips in his Manhattan office in 2018. Mr. Cuomo has flatly denied these accusations.

An investigation of Mr. Cuomo’s actions by Ms. James was sparked by a Feb. 27 report in The Times about Mr. Cuomo and Charlotte Bennett, who had worked in the governor’s office as an executive assistant and a senior scheduler.

In a series of interviews with the Times, Ms. Bennett, 25, said that Mr. Cuomo, 63, had asked her invasive personal questions last spring about her sex life and life as a survivor of sexual assault, including whether she had slept with older men, and whether she thought age made a difference in relationships.

Mr. Cuomo also complained of being lonely and wanting a girlfriend in Albany, and said he “was fine” with being involved with women in their 20s, Ms. Bennett said, statements she took as clear indications of a sexual overture.

“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me,” Ms. Bennett told The Times. “And felt horribly uncomfortable and scared.”

Mr. Cuomo has denied making advances but suggested on Wednesday that some of his statements may have been misconstrued.

“I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable,” he said. “I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do.”

Shortly after her encounter with the governor, Ms. Bennett reported his actions last June to the governor’s chief of staff, Jill DesRosiers, and had quickly been transferred to another job, with an office farther from Mr. Cuomo. Ms. Bennett also told a special counsel to the governor, Judith Mogul, about her experiences, before deciding she did not want to pursue an investigation.

Ms. Bennett said she made it clear to Ms. Mogul that she believed the governor was grooming her for sex, but also that she feared retaliation for reporting his behavior. In a statement on Friday, Ms. Mogul said she had “acted consistent with the information provided, the requirements of the law, and Charlotte’s wishes.”

On Sunday, Mr. Cuomo reiterated his assertion that he “was never aware at the time that Ms. Bennett felt uncomfortable.”

Last week, Ms. James ordered Ms. Mogul and others in the Cuomo administration to safeguard any records related to the pending investigation. She is said to be close to choosing an outside law firm to conduct the investigation of Mr. Cuomo.

Until that report is issued, however, Mr. Cuomo says he wants to “do my job.”

“This is not about me, and accusations about me,” he said. “The attorney general can handle that.”

Luis Ferré-Sadurní contributed reporting.

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