Cuomo, Contrite Over Sex Harassment Accusations, Refuses to Resign

ALBANY, N.Y. — In his first public remarks since a sexual harassment scandal enveloped his administration, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Wednesday that he was embarrassed by his actions and apologized, but said that he would not resign from office.

Appearing at the State Capitol, the governor sought to quell the outrage over his actions regarding three young women — including accusations of sexual harassment from two state workers, and another of unwanted touching and kissing at a wedding — as a growing chorus of his fellow Democrats called for him to step aside.

Mr. Cuomo said that he wanted New Yorkers to “hear from me directly on this.”

“I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” he said. “It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it and frankly embarrassed by it and that’s not easy to say but that’s the truth.”

He stressed that he “never touched anyone inappropriately.”

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

In his remarks and in response to a series of questions, Mr. Cuomo expressed contrition — a rarity in a politician known for his sometimes bruising and abrasive personality — saying he has “learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation for me as well as other people.”

“I will be the better for this experience,” he said.

Few, if any, top officials have vociferously defended Mr. Cuomo, with most Democrats repeatedly calling for an independent investigation into the claims, now to be overseen by the state attorney general, Letitia James.

The news conference on Wednesday was the governor’s first briefing in nine days, the longest he had gone without taking questions from reporters since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The governor, a third-term Democrat, had previously sought to explain that some of his past remarks and questions to staff had been misconstrued, and “may have been insensitive or too personal.”

“I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement on Sunday. “To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.”

That statement fell short for many, including Charlotte Bennett, a 25-year-old former aide of Mr. Cuomo who told The New York Times that the governor asked her a series of sexually charged questions during a private meeting last June, including whether she was monogamous and had slept with older men. Shaken and upset, Ms. Bennett reported the incident to Mr. Cuomo’s chief of staff, and was promptly transferred to another part of the state government.

On Monday, she characterized the governor’s initial apology — and an aborted attempt to install an associate of a top aide to conduct an investigation — as a craven attempt to avoid responsibility.

“These are not the actions of someone who simply feels misunderstood,” Ms. Bennett wrote. “They are the actions of an individual who wields his power to avoid justice.”

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