The staffer who accused Governor Andrew Cuomo of groping her in the Executive Mansion and other harassing behavior has come forward: Brittany Commisso, executive assistant to the governor, told CBS This Morning and the Times Union, “What he did to me was a crime. He broke the law.”
A short clip of her interview aired on CBS Face The Nation (the full interview will be broadcast and published on Monday), and when asked why she filed a criminal complaint with the Albany County Sheriff’s office, Commisso said, “It was the right thing to do. The governor needs to be held accountable.”
Last Tuesday, Attorney General Letitia James’s office released a 168-page report from independent investigators that substantiated the claims of 11 women who accused Cuomo of sexually harassing them and determined that Cuomo violated state and federal law. The report also found that the governor’s office was a toxic and hostile workplace atmosphere where employees felt abused and intimidated.
Since approximately late 2019, the Governor engaged in a pattern of inappropriate conduct with an executive assistant (“Executive Assistant #1”), who is a woman. That pattern of conduct included: (1) close and intimate hugs; (2) kisses on the cheeks, forehead, and at least one kiss on the lips; (3) touching and grabbing of Executive Assistant #1’s butt during hugs and, on one occasion, while taking selfies with him; and (4) comments and jokes by the Governor about Executive Assistant #1’s personal life and relationships, including calling her and another assistant “mingle mamas,” inquiring multiple times about whether she had cheated or would cheat on her husband, and asking her to help find him a girlfriend.
These offensive interactions, among others, culminated in an incident at the Executive Mansion in November 2020 when the Governor, during another close hug with Executive Assistant #1, reached under her blouse and grabbed her breast. For over three months, Executive Assistant #1 kept this groping incident to herself and planned to take it “to the grave,” but found herself becoming emotional (in a way that was visible to her colleagues in the Executive Chamber) while watching the Governor state, at a press conference on March 3, 2021, that he had never “touched anyone inappropriately.” She then confided in certain of her colleagues, who in turn reported her allegations to senior staff in the Executive Chamber.
Cuomo’s specifically referred to his assistant’s groping claim when responding to the AG’s report. “Let me be clear. That never happened,” he said on Tuesday. “She wants anonymity and I respect that. So I am limited but what I can say. But her lawyer has suggested that she will file a legal claim for damage. That will be decided in a court of law. Trial by newspaper or biased reviews are not the way to find the facts in this matter.”
He added, “I welcome the opportunity for a full and fair review before a judge and a jury, because this just did not happen.”
His private attorney, Rita Glavin, also tried to cast doubt on Commisso’s accusation during another press conference by nitpicking certain details. Glavin did not address the substance of other accusers, such as former staffer Charlotte Bennett, whose claims about Cuomo making inappropriate comments were substantiated by the report.
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said on Saturday that if his office found that Commisso’s claim was credible, Cuomo could be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor.
“I’m not going to rush it because of who he is, and I’m not going to delay it because of who he is,” Apple said.
The New York State Assembly is also conducting its own investigation into the sexual harassment allegations, as well as other issues, including how the governor handled nursing home deaths and his multimillion pandemic book deal. On Monday, the Assembly’s judiciary committee will meet and is expected to discuss impeachment proceedings.