ALBANY, N.Y. — A sixth woman accused Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment on Tuesday while the embattled governor again denied any wrongdoing.
Cuomo said he was unaware of the latest allegation made by an aide who claims he touched her inappropriately late last year while the pair were working together at the Executive Mansion.
“As I said last week, this is very simple: I never touched any inappropriately,” the governor during an afternoon call with reporters. “As I said last week, I never made any inappropriate advances. As I said last week, no one ever told me at the time I made them feel uncomfortable.
“Obviously, there are people who’ve said after the fact they felt uncomfortable. No one told me that at the time,” he added.
Cuomo’s comments came moments after the Albany Times Union reported that the governor’s office was made aware of the latest claim over the weekend and already passed the information on to the attorney general’s office, which is overseeing a probe into the governor’s behavior.
The unnamed accuser, a member of the Executive Chamber staff, claims Cuomo inappropriately touched her during an encounter last year at the Executive Mansion, the official residence of the governor.
Five other women, including four who worked for the governor throughout his career, have publicly accused Cuomo of misconduct or inappropriate behavior. The scandal has engulfed the governor, already under fire and facing a federal probe over his administration’s handling of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, in recent weeks and led to increasing calls for his resignation.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, became the highest-ranking of the governor’s fellow Democrats to call on him to leave office this weekend.
Cuomo has remained defiant, suggesting it would be “anti-democratic” for him to step down.
“There is no way I resign,” he said Sunday.
Over the weekend, Ana Liss, a former policy and operations aide to the governor, told the Wall Street Journal that Cuomo repeatedly inquired about her personal life, touched her, and on one occasion kissed her hand as she rose from her desk.
Separately, Karen Hinton, who worked with the governor when he led the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, said Cuomo once invited her to his hotel room during a work trip to California. He asked her personal questions about her marriage and hugged her repeatedly in a manner that was “too long, too tight, too intimate” when she tried to leave.
Former aide Charlotte Bennett, 25, said that Cuomo asked her probing personal questions including if she was interested in older men and indicated he was comfortable with “anyone above the age of 22” during private meetings last spring, at the height of the COVID-19 crisis.
Bennett called Cuomo a “textbook abuser” and detailed how she believes the governor was “grooming” her for a sexual relationship.
“Without explicitly saying it, he implied to me that I was old enough for him and he was lonely,” she told CBS News last week.
Bennett, Liss and Hinton all came forward after former Cuomo adviser Lindsey Boylan published an essay last month accusing the 63-year-old of kissing her on the mouth without her consent during a meeting at his Manhattan office.
Another woman, Anna Ruch, 33, alleges the governor made unwanted advances toward her and planted an unsolicited kiss on her cheek at a 2019 wedding.
Attorney General Letitia James announced Monday that the investigation into Cuomo will be led by Joon Kim, the former acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Anne Clark, who has represented numerous plaintiffs in sexual harassment lawsuits.
Debra Katz, a lawyer representing Bennett, said James’ decision “demonstrates that Attorney General Letitia James is taking this matter very seriously.”
“We are encouraged by the experience and background of the attorneys who will be investigating Charlotte’s claims and expect the investigation will extend to the claims of the other women who we know to be out there,” Katz said.
Asked Tuesday whether he will seek a fourth term, a feat that eluded his late father, Gov. Mario Cuomo, the governor said he’s focused on COVID-19 recovery and vaccinations.
“Today is not a day for politics,” he said. “I’m focusing on my job.”
Cuomo also bristled when it was pointed out that he called for then-Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s resignation in 2018 after news reports detailed the disgraced pol’s history of abusing women.
“There’s obviously allegations and then there’s allegations,” Cuomo said. “There’s a spectrum of allegations. There’s capital crimes, there’s physical violence, down to more minor allegations.”
He also said he has addressed the matter with his three daughters, telling them the same thing he has said publicly.
“I told them what I told you, which is I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never made any inappropriate advances,” he said. “No one ever told me they felt at the time that I made them feel uncomfortable or awkward.”