Cuomo Accuser Says He Propositioned Her, Leaving her ‘Terrified’
(Bloomberg) -- Charlotte Bennett, who worked for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and has accused him of harassment, said he propositioned her and asked if a past sexual trauma continued to affect her intimate relationships, an exchange that left her “terrified.”
“I thought, he’s trying to sleep with me,” Bennett said in an interview with CBS News that was broadcast on Thursday. “The governor’s trying to sleep with me and I’m deeply uncomfortable and I have to get out of this room as soon as possible.”
Bennett, 25, said the governor, who’s 63, asked her if their age difference mattered, and told her he felt comfortable being with anyone over the age of 22.
“Without explicitly saying, it he implied to me that I was old enough for him and he was lonely,” Bennett said.
Bennett is one of three women who have accused Cuomo of inappropriate behavior, leading to an outside investigation into the claims. The governor, a divorced father of three adult daughters who has championed women’s rights, has apologized for making anyone feel “uncomfortable.” He urged voters and lawmakers to wait for the results of the investigation before passing judgment and said he wouldn’t resign over the accusations.
Governor’s Two Crises
The sexual-harassment allegations come as he is also facing mounting criticism over accusations that his administration covered up nursing home deaths tied to Covid-19. A January report issued by Attorney General Letitia James, who is also overseeing the sexual-harassment inquiry, said the Cuomo administration undercounted coronavirus deaths in the state’s nursing homes and that they were 50% higher than earlier death tolls.
Top advisers to the governor deliberately pushed state health officials to alter a public report with data showing that more nursing-home residents died from Covid than the administration had acknowledged, according to reports in The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times on Thursday, citing anonymous people.
The people, according to the Journal and the Times, said the initial version of the report included data on deaths of nursing home residents who were transferred to hospitals, rather than just deaths of residents who died in the homes. Ultimately, Cuomo’s administration got the Health Department to remove the deaths of nursing home residents who had left the facilities, resulting in a much-reduced count, the publications said.
Beth Garvey, special counsel and a senior adviser to Cuomo, confirmed the reports in a statement. She said advisers had advocated against including data on out-of-facility deaths because the health department “could not confirm it had been adequately verified,” according to the statement.
“While early versions of the report included out-of-facility deaths, the Covid task force was not satisfied that the data had been verified against hospital data and so the final report used only data for in- facility deaths, which was disclosed in the report,” state Health Department spokesperson Gary Holmes, in a statement. “DOH was comfortable with the final report.”
Holmes said the report’s purpose was to “ensure the public had a clear non-political evaluation for how Covid entered nursing homes at the height of the pandemic.”
The uproar over the various allegations has taken a toll. Cuomo’s approval rating dropped to 45% in a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday, from 72% in May 2020. While 59% say he should not seek a fourth term as governor, 55% of New York voters say Cuomo should not resign from office, as numerous Democrats in the State Legislature have called on him to do.
The poll was conducted from March 2-3 among New York state registered voters and has a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points. The poll was underway when the governor issued an apology Wednesday for his actions.
During the CBS interview, Bennett’s first televised appearance since going public with her accusations in the Times, the former executive assistant and health-policy aide said that after taking dictation for the governor in his office, he asked her to turn off her recorder and then began a personal conversation.
“He goes, ‘You were raped. You were raped. You were raped and abused and assaulted,’” Bennett said. “”The governor asked me if I was sensitive to intimacy.”
Bennett said she believed Cuomo felt emboldened by all of the attention he had received as the Covid-19 pandemic unfolded, and he was on national television nearly every day.
“I think he felt like he was untouchable in a lot of ways,” she said.
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