It was an attempt at a joke as Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday began to speak with the press. The statement was awkwardly received and later criticized for being in poor taste.
"Space. We need space. I'll bring you all up on charges under the MeToo movement," Cuomo said.
On Thursday morning, Cuomo attempted to clarify the incident in a radio interview.
"It was an off-hand comment. I had walked out to the hallway and I was assaulted by the gaggle with pieces of equipment hitting me in all sorts of my anatomy," Cuomo said.
But Erica Vladimir is not laughing. The former legislative aide, who last year accused now ex-Senator Jeff Klein of forcibly kissing her, said she was troubled by the attempt at humor by the governor.
"It's really concerning to see the governor weaponize trauma that victims have gone through just so he can get a laugh and have joke. And it really shows that even though it's been a year for Me Too, up in Albany we have a long way to go," Vladimir said.
Vladimir is a member of the Sexual Harassment Working Group, comprised of former legisaltive staffers who reported being harassed, abused, or assaulted while working in Albany. For the last year, they've sought public hearings on the issue of harassment and abuse in state government.
"We cannot as a state have what the governor has called the strongest laws in the nation if they are not crafted based on the experiences of victims. There are nuances that exist that only victims can talk about, and help educate our elected officials about," Vladimir said.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins this week pledged to hold public hearings on the issue. But the working group is also seeking changes in policy, inccluding better protections for survivors and victims of harassment such as reforms to how confidentiality agreements are structured.
The group is also hopeful that a record-setting number of women taking power in Albany can change the state Capitol's culture.
"I think it can change, but as we've seen, just being a woman doesn't mean you're an ally of victims," Vladimir said.
No dates yet have been set for holding the public hearings.