Accuser’s lawyer responds to latest Cuomo denial

Cuomo Under Fire

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been tight-lipped regarding the ongoing sexual harassment claims against him. Despite repeated insistence that he’s done nothing wrong, Cuomo has hardly made a specific statement in weeks, if not months.

Though Cuomo has frequently declined a physical press presence at publicity briefings, most questions that get through to the governor touch on the investigation. At a press event in Syracuse on Monday, Cuomo said that he “didn’t do anything wrong.” 

Debra Katz, the attorney representing accuser Charlotte Bennett, released a statement in response to the governor’s quick deflection. She said he reveals “a studied ignorance of both his legal obligations and a revisionist history about his own conduct.” Read on for the full statement from Bennett’s attorney:

Today, Gov. Andrew Cuomo conducted a press conference in which he continued his effort to actively undermine the Attorney General’s independent investigation into his sexual harassment of my client, Charlotte Bennett, and numerous other women. Cuomo’s efforts to undermine this investigation are part of a broader effort to evade accountability for his actions, and members of the NY State Assembly must be prepared to accept the Attorney General’s findings when the appointed investigators conclude their work and include them as part of their impeachment proceedings. 

Today, the Governor said he didn’t “do anything wrong,” demonstrating a studied ignorance of both his legal obligations and a revisionist history about his own conduct. Just weeks ago he admitted numerous times to making “jokes” and other inappropriate comments to Ms. Bennett, which are defined as sexual harassment under the very policies he enacted. Does he really not understand that sexually propositioning a 25-year-old staffer after making inappropriate comments of a sexual nature is illegal? Or does he continue to believe that the law does not apply to him? Despite what the Governor said today, the Attorney General’s report will not absolve him of wrongdoing because his legal obligations—which he chooses to flout—are crystal clear. At least nine women have come forward who have credibly accused him of unwelcome advances, unwelcome touching, and/or aggressive groping. This behavior is unequivocally wrong and unlawful. 

Cuomo’s comments today raise serious questions about what he considers to be appropriate behavior in the workplace, and we believe the women in his office continue to be at risk for ongoing sexual harassment if he genuinely believes it’s fine to touch and proposition low-level female employees are decades younger than he is. In March, Ms. Bennett said she witnessed another employee take the state-mandated sexual harassment training for him. While his office denied this to be the case, neither the Governor nor his office have ever provided documentation to show he has completed the sexual harassment training he has mandated for every employer in the State of New York and for every employee in the Executive Chamber. 

We would like to see any documentation or records pertaining to this training and affirming that he understands the State of New York’s definition of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Debra S. Katz

The most recent official statement from the Cuomo camp came from ranking aide Rich Azzopardi, who said that recent developments in the investigation had “jumped the shark.” Although Cuomo has said that he doesn’t want to say anything that would jeopardize the integrity of the investigation, Azzopardi cast aspersions on State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Attorney General Letitia James. He accused both Democrats of having political motivations:

This is Albany politics at its worst,” Azzopardi said. “Both the Comptroller and the Attorney General have spoken to people about running for Governor and it is unethical to wield criminal referral authority to further political self-interest‎.”

When Cuomo himself was Attorney General of New York, his office promptly opened an investigation into then-Gov. Elliot Spitzer’s prostitution scandal.

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