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UPDATED: ‘Being playful’: Cuomo says he ‘teased’ staff, agrees to independent inquiry


ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday supplied his most detailed response but to allegations that he sexually harassed two staffers, saying in an announcement that his feedback had been meant to be "good natured” and that he was sorry these interactions had been “misinterpreted as an undesirable flirtation.”

Cuomo, dealing with growing criticism of his fumbled makes an attempt to hand the difficulty off to an independent investigator, admitted Sunday night that he likes to “tease individuals” within the workplace.

“I now perceive that my interactions might have been insensitive or too private and that a few of my feedback, given my place, made others really feel in methods I by no means meant,” Cuomo mentioned. “I acknowledge a number of the issues I’ve mentioned have been misinterpreted as an undesirable flirtation. To the extent anybody felt that means, I’m really sorry about that.”

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The remarks got here as Cuomo’s workplace made its third proposal in lower than 24 hours about how to conduct an independent investigation into his workplace after a second former staffer instructed The New York Instances on Saturday evening that Cuomo had harassed her.

Cuomo counsel Beth Garvey initially mentioned Cuomo would appoint a former decide to look into the allegations. When that went over poorly, she pitched a brand new plan wherein Lawyer Normal Tish James and Chief Choose Janet DiFiore would collectively appoint an investigator. James rejected that concept, saying she needed a referral that may give her workplace subpoena energy within the matter.

On Sunday night, Garvey mentioned James alone might be requested to appoint a “certified personal lawyer” to deal with the investigation. That lawyer and “different legal professionals from the appointed lawyer’s agency” can be totally deputized to conduct the probe.

James mentioned in an announcement that she would transfer ahead beneath the method proposed by Garvey.

“This isn’t a accountability we take frivolously. We’ll rent a legislation agency, deputize them as attorneys of our workplace, and oversee a rigorous and independent investigation,” she mentioned.

The developments on Sunday, wherein New York’s three-term governor appeared to quickly lose management of considered one of a number of scandals swirling round him, adopted new allegations of sexual harassment from a former staffer who told The Times that the governor had repeatedly requested her intimate private questions, which felt like “one thing out of a horror film.“ Charlotte Bennett, 25, mentioned Cuomo requested her about her romantic life and whether or not she “had ever been with an older man.”

Earlier final week, one other former Cuomo staffer, Lindsey Boylan, detailed allegations of harassment from Cuomo in a personal essay posted on Medium. Amongst different issues, Boylan mentioned Cuomo kissed her on the lips and requested her to play strip poker throughout a airplane trip.

The accusations come after Cuomo, who was seen as a nationwide star for his public appearances earlier within the pandemic, confronted growing scrutiny in latest weeks about his dealing with of Covid-related deaths of nursing residence residents.

James, the legal professional normal and a fellow Democrat, issued a report saying that the administration severely undercounted the variety of deaths of nursing residence residents, and the governor’s high aide mentioned that the administration "froze" when requested for an accounting of these deaths. These revelations led in flip to a collection of tales important of Cuomo’s aggressive management type.

James made clear earlier Sunday she would solely launch an investigation "via an official referral from the governor’s workplace."

"There have to be a very independent investigation to completely evaluation these troubling allegations towards the governor, and I stand prepared to oversee that investigation and make any appointments obligatory," she mentioned.

In his assertion Sunday night, Cuomo conceded that he typically makes “jokes that I feel are humorous” whereas at work, believing he’s “being playful.”

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“I do it in public and in personal,” he mentioned. “You will have seen me do it at briefings a whole lot of occasions. I’ve teased individuals about their private lives, their relationships, about getting married or not getting married. I imply no offense and solely try to add some levity and banter to what’s a really severe enterprise.”

He acknowledged his interactions, at occasions, had been “insensitive or too private and that a few of my feedback, given my place, made others really feel in methods I by no means meant.”

"To be clear, I by no means inappropriately touched anyone and I by no means propositioned anyone and I by no means meant to make anybody really feel uncomfortable, however these are allegations that New Yorkers deserve solutions to,” Cuomo mentioned. "That is why I’ve requested for an outdoor, independent evaluation that appears at these allegations.”

He added: "Individually, my workplace has heard anecdotally that some individuals have reached out to Ms. Bennett to specific displeasure about her coming ahead. My message to anybody doing that’s you could have misjudged what issues to me and my administration and you need to cease now — interval."

Some had been left unhappy by the apology.

“That is a completely disgusting, gaslighting response," Erica Vladimer, a member of a Sexual Harassment Working Group in New York, mentioned in a tweet. “No possession of his actions, blaming his victims for ‘misinterpreting’ his ‘playfulness.’"

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