NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo broke his silence Wednesday about the sexual harassment investigation engulfing his administration.
In an emotional press conference, he claimed he never touched anyone inappropriately and he apologized repeatedly.READ MORE: Wife Of Top Cuomo Aide Shows Support On Social Media For Governor’s Latest Sexual Harassment Accuser
Cuomo told reporters he will not resign but will “fully cooperate” with Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation. He also asked New Yorkers not to judge him until all the facts are in, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Cuomo said.
WATCH: Gov. Cuomo Addresses Sexual Harassment Allegations
After a week of maintaining radio silence, the governor finally addressed the women who have accused him of sexual harassment. He was contrite, emotional and his voice broke from time to time. He claimed he didn’t know he was upsetting the women he spoke to, including former aide Charlotte Bennett, who claimed made her feel like he wanted to sleep with her based on what she called inappropriate questions.
“I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it and, frankly, I am embarrassed by it,” Cuomo said.
The governor was also accused by another aide, Lindsey Boylan, of kissing her and asking her to play strip poker.
“I want you to know this from me directly, I never touched anyone inappropriately,” Cuomo said.
Boylan, his first accuser, was also the first to reject his apology, tweeting, “How can New Yorkers trust you @NYGovCuomo to lead our state if you ‘don’t know’ when you’ve been inappropriate with your own staff?”
How can New Yorkers trust you @NYGovCuomo to lead our state if you “don’t know” when you’ve been inappropriate with your own staff?
— Lindsey Boylan (@LindseyBoylan) March 3, 2021
Bennett also rejected the governor’s apology. Her lawyer, Debra Katz, issued a statement saying, “The governor’s press conference was full of falsehoods and inaccurate information, and New Yorkers deserve better. The governor repeatedly said he had no idea he made anyone uncomfortable. My client, Charlotte Bennett, reported his sexually harassing behavior immediately to his chief of staff and chief counsel. We are confident that they made him aware of her complaint.”
Katz called Cuomo’s behavior with Bennett “classic sexual harassment.”
Bennett claims Cuomo asked her whether she was monogamous in her relationships and if she had ever had sex with older men.
“It is inconceivable that he did not know that this behavior was very harmful to her,” Katz said.READ MORE: Amid Scandal Engulfing Gov. Cuomo, Experts Re-Examine What Constitutes Workplace Sexual Harassment
As CBS2’s Dick Brennan reports, Cuomo is feeling the heat from both sides of the political aisle.
“He thought it was appropriate to ask this young woman if she had sex with older men. That is completely unacceptable, and if this was the corporate sector, he would have been fired as a CEO,” Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis said.
“I call on Governor Cuomo to resign because this is about an abuse of power,” Democratic mayoral candidate Maya Wiley said.
“He’s saying nothing inappropriate happened. If the investigation shows that something inappropriate did happen, I think he would have to resign,” Democratic Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins said.
Watch Marcia Kramer’s report —
A third accuser, Anna Ruch, reportedly claimed that Cuomo tried to kiss her at a 2019 wedding of top gubernatorial aide, Gareth Rhodes, and a picture later surfaced of the governor touching her face. The governor said that kissing and touching people is just his way and pictures obtained by CBS2 show him holding people’s heads in his hands — all kinds of people. They are similar to the picture that caused the offense.
“You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people … It is my usual and customary way of greeting,” Cuomo said. “However, what I also understand … is it doesn’t matter … What matters is if anybody was offended, if they were hurt by it, I apologize. If they feel pain, I did not intend it.”
After Ruch’s allegations surfaced Monday, Rhodes’ wife expressed support for her on social media, saying “I am so proud of Anna for sharing her story. This pattern of behavior is completely unacceptable.” Rhodes has since left the governor’s office and returned to the state Department of Financial Services.
The governor asked New Yorkers to withhold judgment until the attorney general completes her investigation. He has no intention of resigning.
“I’m not going to resign. I work for the people of the state of New York,” he said.
Cuomo said he had taken mandatory sexual harassment training, but at least one lawmaker said she wanted to see the records to prove it.
The New York Attorney General has to appoint someone to handle the investigation. That probe could take months. The governor says he will be fully cooperative.
Meanwhile, the governor is also on the verge of losing some of his emergency powers during the pandemic. The Legislature’s deal to scale back his executive powers could be voted on as early as Friday.MORE NEWS: Who Is Cuomo’s Possible Successor, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul?
CBS2’s Dick Brennan contributed to this report.