A current staffer to Andrew Cuomo who told a coworker that the governor had “aggressively groped” her, has revealed more details of the incident when she was summoned to the executive mansion in November of last year.
In an extensive interview with the Times Union, which first reported the woman’s allegations on March 9th, she also described how prior to the November 2020 incident, Cuomo made a series of sexually explicit comments and touched her inappropriately several times in what she said was grooming behavior. The publication withheld her name citing her privacy.
That day last year, Cuomo had specifically requested through his senior aide Stephanie Benton that the woman come to the executive mansion to help with his phone, the publication reported.
As she arrived in his office in the mansion, Cuomo walked out from behind his desk and embraced her and started groping her breasts. The woman said she was mortified and afraid, and managed to say, “You’re going to get us in trouble.” Cuomo slammed the door behind her, said he didn’t care, and walked toward her again, this time grabbing her breasts over her bra.
“He pulled me close and all I remember is seeing his hand, his big hand,” she said. “I remember looking down like, ‘Holy sh_.'”
The woman said she panicked and didn’t know what to do.
“I don’t remember actually saying the word ‘Stop.’ I think I said, ‘You’re crazy.’” The words seemed to make the governor recoil, she said. He walked back behind his desk and she turned around and left his office, sitting in her car for several minutes trying to calm herself down.
“You have to pull yourself together'” she said, “If I told someone, I’m done. And who do you tell?”
The incident last November was the culmination of a series of sexual comments and instances of physical touching that made the woman feel as if Cuomo was deliberately grooming her for sex. The woman’s allegations are the most serious against Cuomo so far and have been referred to the Albany Police.
Cuomo faces a range of sexual harassment accusations from at least five current and former staffers who have alleged he created a toxic work environment where women were objectified, that he went out of his way to touch women’s bodies, made sexually explicit remarks, and forcibly kissed a woman. Several other women who met the governor in passing have also described being touched, kissed and hugged in ways that made them uncomfortable.
Cuomo has repeatedly denied touching anyone inappropriately and has said he was sorry for making anyone uncomfortable. He also denied this woman’s allegations when they were reported last month. His attorney Rita Glavin did not return a request for further comment on the reporting in the Times Union immediately.
Shortly after the woman started working in the executive chambers another in 2017, another female aide said something to her that confused her. “Oh, you’re going to get stolen,” the woman told her. “You just wait and see, and the governor will be stealing you.”
Over time, Cuomo began making sexually explicit comments and questions similar to conversations described by former aide Charlotte Bennett, who said Cuomo asked if she was comfortable dating older men and if she was sensitive to intimacy because she’d been sexually assaulted.
“He’s like, ‘Would you ever do anything with anyone else? I’m single and ready to mingle,’” she recalled, and on another occasion, “‘Oh, if you were single, the things that I would do to you.’”
She described hugs from Cuomo that got longer and longer, only when other staffers were not around, often punctuated by a kiss on the cheek. Cuomo would justify the touching citing his Italian roots, the woman said, the same justification he’s used to defend himself in recent weeks as more have come forward describing how his actions were inappropriate.
She recalled being shocked one time when senior staffers were in the room, and Cuomo didn’t hug her as she’d grown accustomed to him doing.
“When he didn’t I said ‘Hmm.’ It felt calculated,” he said. “He would totally act different.”
The woman detailed what she recalled as “the first blatant move.” The two were alone in Cuomo’s office on New Years of 2019. Cuomo wanted her to take a selfie of the two of them. As she held up the phone, she said, Cuomo rubbed his hand on her butt cheek. She was terrified, she said, and her hands were shaking.
“I couldn’t get a clear picture,” she said. “You’re like, ‘Is this really going on, is this happening?’’
The woman said she didn’t report the groping incident to her bosses at the time. Her supervisor, the person she thought she might tell, was one of Cuomo’s closest confidants. It wasn’t until March 3rd, following sexual harassment by two former staffers Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett, that the woman came forward.
She was watching Cuomo’s televised apology with other staffers, where he denied touching anyone inappropriately, and started crying—at that point, she confided in a co-worker who comforted her. That woman later reported the incident to their supervisors, the Times Union reported. The incident was referred to the State Attorney General Office Letitia James’ office whose attorneys have since interviewed her, according to the publication. A spokesperson for James’ office declined to comment.
As a cloud of investigations and allegations have loomed large over Cuomo’s administration, he’s attempted to shift focus by putting an emphasis on the state budget, reopening the state, and vaccination roll out through a series of press conferences surrounded by political allies but no reporters.
James is investigating sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo. The State Assembly is considering sexual harassment allegations (though many of the women have said they won’t participate), nursing home data coverup, and issues with the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. The federal government is also probing issues regarding nursing homes. There are potential breaches of state ethics laws, following reports that Cuomo gave prioritized COVID testing to friends and family and that he used state resources to write his pandemic memoir $4 million book deal.