A second former state aide is accusing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, sparking an investigation by a former federal judge into her claims.
The former aide, Charlotte Bennett, told The New York Times that Cuomo made remarks to her last year that she came to believe were part of an effort to have a sexual relationship.
Bennett told The Times that Cuomo asked her questions about her sex life, whether she was monogamous, and if she ever had sex with an older man.
Bennett was later transferred to a different department within the state government after making a formal complaint.
In a statement released Saturday evening, Cuomo said he was attempting to be a mentor to Bennett and denied acting inappropriately with her.
"I never made advances toward Ms. Bennett nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate," he said. "The last thing I would ever have wanted was to make her feel any of the things that are being reported."
Cuomo said the case cannot be "resolved in the press" and called for a review of the allegations raised by Bennett.
"This situation cannot and should not be resolved in the press; I believe the best way to get to the truth is through a full and thorough outside review and I am directing all state employees to comply with that effort," he said. "I ask all New Yorkers to await the findings of the review so that they know the facts before making any judgements. I will have no further comment until the review has concluded."
In a separate statement, Cuomo counsel Beth Garvey said former federal Judge Barbara Jones would lead the review.
"The determination reached based on the information Ms. Bennett provided was that no further action was required which was consistent with Ms. Bennett's wishes," Garvey said.
"Although in no way required by law, the Governor has requested an independent review and all staff will cooperate in that endeavor," Garvey said. Former Federal Judge Barbara Jones will lead the review."
Bennett is the second woman this week to make allegations of sexual harassment against Cuomo, now in his third term.
Lindsey Boylan, a former aide and economic development advisor for the governor and now a candidate for Manhattan borough president, on Wednesday posted an essay online alleging Cuomo harassed her when she worked for his administration. Cuomo has denied that allegation.
Democratic lawmakers over the last several days have called for independent investigations of the Boylan allegation.
"Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett’s detailed accounts of sexual harassment by Gov. Cuomo are extremely serious and painful to read," progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter on Sunday. "There must be an independent investigation - not one led by an individual selected by the Governor, but by the office of the Attorney General."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki echoed the calls for an independent investigation in an interview with CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday.
"President Biden has been consistent that he believes that every woman should be heard, should be treated with respect, and with dignity," Psaki told CNN's Dana Bash. "Charlotte should be treated with respect and dignity, so should Lindsey, and there should be an independent review looking into these allegations, and that's certainly something he supports and we believe should move forward as quickly as possible."
"[Biden] believes that every woman should be treated with dignity and respect. They should be able to tell their story. There should be an independent review of these allegations, they're serious," Psaki added. "It was hard to read that story as a woman."
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio released a statement on Sunday morning calling on the state legislature to revoke the governor’s emergency powers, and for two independent investigations to be launched: one looking into coronavirus nursing homes deaths, and the other into personal misconduct allegations.
"New Yorkers have seen detailed, documented accounts of sexual harassment, multiple instances of intimidation, and the admitted withholding of information on the deaths of over 15,000 people," said de Blasio in the statement.
In the wake of Bennett's allegations, two Democratic state lawmakers, State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi and Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, are calling for the governor to step down.
On Saturday night, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who is next in line to become governor, backed an investigation.
"Everyone deserves to have their voice heard and taken seriously," she said. "I support an independent review."
The top legislative leaders in the state Senate and Assembly also backed an investigation as well."
Top lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly also supported the review, calling the allegations serious and in need of an investigation.
"The continued allegations are deeply disturbing and concerning," said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. "The behavior described has no place in the workplace. A truly independent investigation must begin immediately."
"As I previously stated, all allegations of harassment must be taken seriously," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. "A truly independent investigation is warranted."
But critics, including state Stewart-Cousins, are rejecting the governor’s suggestion that Jones lead an outside investigation, and are instead calling for state Attorney General Letitia James to lead a probe.