Embattled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo vigorously denied allegations in an attorney general’s bombing report Tuesday that he sexually molested at least 11 women and oversaw a “toxic culture” of fear and intimidation in his office.
“I have never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” Cuomo said.
“I’m 63 years old. I’ve been in public my entire adult life. I’m just not.”
Cuomo said his attorney, Rita Glavin, had prepared a point-by-point rebuttal of the results of the damning report, which was monitored by Attorney General Letitia James after an investigation in which he was questioned for 11 hours.
“The facts are very different from what is presented,” said the governor. “Read the facts and decide for yourself.”
He flatly denied an allegation of groping a woman in the office of his Albany home after calling her into the governor’s mansion.
“That never happened,” said Cuomo.
The Democratic governor also accused investigators of bias, suggesting that the investigation was infected by politics.
“Politics and bias are woven into every aspect of this investigation,” said Cuomo. “It would be naive to think differently, and New Yorkers are not naive.”
However, Cuomo also said that he understood that he behaved towards some women in a way that made them feel uncomfortable. In one case, he noted, the New York Times had featured a front-page photo of him holding a woman’s face while she grimaced.
This woman resented his gesture, which Cuomo claimed was meant to “convey warmth, nothing more”.
“I apologize for that,” said Cuomo. “I now understand that there are generational or cultural perspectives that I honestly haven’t fully appreciated, and I’ve learned from them.”
That 85-page rebuttal by Cuomo’s attorney bizarrely contained eight pages of photos of the governor hugging various people and another 15 showing hugs of political figures like President Joe Biden, Vice-President Kamala Harris, former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush participated, and Hillary Clinton, the former Secretary of State and US Senator from New York.
Glavin said in that rebuttal: “Unfortunately, as the results of the report show, investigators have launched an entirely biased investigation and deliberately ignored evidence inconsistent with the narrative they tried to weave from the start.”
“In order to reach their conclusion, they ignored the governor’s testimony and substantial confirmatory evidence and were not open about the fact at a press conference at which they announced their findings,” Glavin said. “We just received the report and we are looking at it and we will add to that statement. But even with a quick initial review, it becomes clear that the report is deliberately omitting important evidence.”
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Early Tuesday, James and investigators carried out detailed conclusions from the report, which immediately rekindled calls for Cuomo’s resignation.
The report said Cuomo harassed women who worked inside and outside the state government, including a state trooper assigned to his personal security detail.
James is also a Democrat and has been mentioned as a possible candidate for governor regardless of whether Cuomo resigns or seeks re-election next year.
Cuomo opened his response Tuesday by saying, “It’s been a tough and painful time for me and my family.”
The governor said in response to the allegations against him, “I brought in an expert to develop new policies and procedures on sexual harassment.”
He didn’t take questions from reporters after responding to the report in a statement broadcast live from his office.
Tuesday’s report found that Cuomo “has denied certain conduct that the applicants clearly remembered”.
“We found that his denial was not credible and inconsistent with the weight of the evidence we received during our investigation,” the report concluded.
“We also found that the governor’s denials and statements on certain allegations were fabricated.”
Mariann Wang, an attorney for two of Cuomo’s prosecutors, said in a statement the governor’s reaction to James’ report was “ridiculous”.
“He’s manipulative like he’s always been,” said Wang. “He’s not being accused of being a kind but gentlemanly boss.
“Independent investigators have found that he touched women on the intimate parts of their bodies and routinely humiliated the women who work with him by treating them as sexual objects,” Wang said.
“He touched one woman’s chest, another woman’s belly, and the neck and spine, he grabbed the buttocks or the buttocks of several women. These are not charming displays of affection. They were sexual. He knew that when he did, and the women experienced this as involuntary sexual contact. It was found that he has been doing this for years. “
– CNBC’s Christina Wilkie and Thomas Franck contributed to this report.