Cuomo Says ‘I Kiss and Hug Legislators’ in Latest Harassment Statement

Written by Jonathan Davis

OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion




New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued another apology on Friday for inappropriate touching and other sexual innuendoes after CBS News aired an interview with one of three women who have accused him of sexual harassment.

“You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people: women, men, children, et cetera,” he told a news conference, in reference to a newly surfaced photo of him placing his hands around the neck and face of a woman during a wedding reception in New York City in 2019.

“You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people, men, women. It is my usual and customary way of greeting,” he continued, essentially condoning his behavior and remaining defiant about not stepping down, even as Democratic lawmakers in his state have called on him to do.

“It was my father’s way of greeting people,” Cuomo continued, referring to former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo. “You’re the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable. You want to reach out to them.

“I kiss and hug legislators,” he added. “I was at an event in Queens the other day, hugged the pastors and the assembly members who were there. So that is my way to do that.”

The woman in the photo, Anna Ruch, is one of the women who has accused Cuomo of sexual harassment. Two other women, Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett, both former aides to Cuomo, have made similar accusations.

“He said, ‘Can I kiss you?’” Ruch recalled to The New York Times. “I was so confused and shocked and embarrassed.”

Boylan, the first to step forward in a Medium piece earlier this month, said Cuomo once asked her, “Do you want to play strip poker?”

Cuomo attempted another apology earlier this week.

“What I also understand is, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter my intent. What it matters is if anybody was offended by it,” Cuomo said. “And I could intend no offense, but if they were offended by it, then it was wrong. And if they were offended by it, I apologize.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has often warred with Cuomo, wasn’t buying it.

“I watched the interview with Charlotte Bennett and it’s just painful, it’s so disturbing,” de Blasio told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer, in reference to CBS News’s broadcast.

“I find her just 100 percent believable and I feel empathy for what she went through — and she speaks so clearly and powerfully,” he continued. “That never should have happened and I think it’s just profoundly troubling that it did.”

Asked if he would publicly call on Cuomo to resign, de Blasio demurred.

“Evidence is mounting,” he said. “As more evidence comes in, I think it’s just a matter of — we need all the facts, but if the facts continue in this pattern, I don’t see how he goes on. I think it’s as simple as that.”