San Francisco Chronicle

Cuomo breaks silence, vows to stay in office

- By Marina Villeneuve Marina Villeneuve is an Associated Press writer.

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday said he intends to remain in office in the face of sexual harassment allegation­s that have weakened his support and led to calls for his resignatio­n.

The Democratic governor, speaking somberly in his first public appearance since three women accused him of inappropri­ate touching and offensive remarks, apologized and said that he “learned an important lesson.”

“I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomforta­ble,” Cuomo said. “It was unintentio­nal and I truly and deeply apologize for it.”

Asked about calls for him to step aside, the thirdterm governor said: “I wasn’t elected by politician­s, I was elected by the people of the state of New York. I’m not going to resign.”

Cuomo acknowledg­ed “sensitivit­ies have changed and behavior has changed” and that what he considers his “customary greeting” — an oldworld approach that often involved kisses and hugs — is no longer acceptable.

But the allegation­s against the governor go beyond aggressive greetings.

Former aide Lindsey Boylan accuses Cuomo of having harassed her throughout her employment and said he once suggested a game of strip poker aboard his stateowned jet. Another former aide, Charlotte Bennett, said Cuomo once asked her if she ever had sex with older men.

Both women rejected Cuomo’s latest apology, doubling down on their disgust after he issued a statement Sunday attempting to excuse his behavior as his way of being “playful.”

“How can New Yorkers trust you @NYGov Cuomo to lead our state if you ‘don’t know’ when you’ve been inappropri­ate with your own staff ?” Boylan tweeted.

Cuomo said he will “fully cooperate” with an investigat­ion into the allegation­s being overseen by the state’s independen­tly elected attorney general. Attorney General Letitia James, also a Democrat, is in the process of selecting an outside law firm to conduct the probe and document its findings.

Cuomo addressed the allegation­s during a news conference that otherwise focused on the state’s response to the coronaviru­s pandemic, the kind of briefings that made him a daily fixture on TV and a national star among Democrats.

Cuomo’s support has plummeted amid a onetwo punch of scandals, and even some Democrats have called on him to step aside. The harassment allegation­s follow accusation­s that Cuomo covered up the true COVID19 death toll on nursing home residents.

“I don’t think it’s in his DNA to resign or back down,” said Queens Assembly member Ron Kim, a Democrat who accused Cuomo of bullying him over the nursing home issue. “I think he will do whatever it takes to fight this.”

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