NY′s Cuomo bows to independent sexual harassment probe | News | DW | 28.02.2021
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NY's Cuomo bows to independent sexual harassment probe

Following criticism, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has retracted plans to have an ex-federal judge, with close ties to one of his closest allies, investigate allegations against him.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

Two women have come forward and accused New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment

Democrat politicians on Sunday called for an independent investigation into the allegations that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed at least two women who worked for him.

Cuomo, who denies any wrongdoing, asked the state's attorney general and chief appeals court judge to jointly appoint an independent lawyer to probe the claims after a second woman came forward to accuse the governor of sexual harassment.

"The Governor's Office wants a review of the sexual harassment claims made against the Governor to be done in a manner beyond reproach,'' Beth Garvey, special counsel to Cuomo, said.

Calls for transparent investigation

Legislative leaders rejected Cuomo's initial plan to appoint a retired federal judge to conduct the investigation.

"We had selected former Federal Judge Barbara Jones, with a stellar record for qualifications and integrity, but we want to avoid even the perception of a lack of independence or inference of politics," Garvey said.

Former Democratic member of Congress and ex-Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called for a "robust and transparent process" — not one initiated by Cuomo.

According to Garvey,  Cuomo's administration has asked Attorney General Letitia James and Janet DiFiore, chief judge of the Court of Appeals, "to jointly select an independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation to conduct a thorough review of the matter and issue a public report."

Garvey said the report "will be solely controlled by that independent lawyer personally selected by the Attorney General and Chief Judge."

Sexual harassment allegations

The latest allegations surfaced on Saturday after 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett, a former aide to the governor until November, told The New York Times that Cuomo, 63, sexually harassed her in 2020.

According to Bennett, Cuomo said in June he was open to dating women in their 20s, and asked her if she thought age made a difference in romantic relationships.

"I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared," she said.

In a statement on Saturday, Cuomo said he "never made advances toward Ms. Bennett nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate."

The governor said he wanted to mentor Bennett.

Cuomo denies allegations

On Wednesday, Lindsey Boylan, another former aide, said in a blog that Cuomo had harassed her when she was working for his administration between 2015 and 2018.

The 36-year-old former deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to Cuomo accused him of subjecting her to an unwanted kiss on the lips.

According to Boylan, Cuomo suggested that they play strip poker and said he went "out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs."

Cuomo's office said those "claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false."

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told CNN that "There should be an independent review looking into these allegations and that's certainly something (Biden) supports and we believe should move forward as quickly as possible."

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mvb/mm (AP, dpa)

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