One of the two women who has accused New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment is calling on the governor to admit to his “predatory behavior’ and is urging other women to come forward.
Charlotte Bennett, age 25, who came forward over the weekend with allegations against the 63-year-old Cuomo following a lengthy blog post by former aide Lindsey Boylan last week, was back in the news on Monday, March 1 to criticize the governor's statement on the matter.
Bennett said in a statement first published by The New York Times that Cuomo “has refused to acknowledge or take responsibility for his predatory behavior.”
“As we know, abusers – particularly those with tremendous amounts of power – are often repeat offenders who engage in manipulative tactics to diminish allegations, blame victims, deny wrongdoing and escape consequences,” she said, adding that “it took the governor 24 hours and significant backlash to allow for a truly independent investigation” after she made the allegations in a series of interviews with The New York Times on Saturday, Feb. 27.
“These are not the actions of someone who simply feels misunderstood; they are the actions of an individual who wields his power to avoid justice.”
Debra Katz, an employment discrimination lawyer who has been retained by Bennett, said that they will be fully cooperating with the independent investigation that has been launched by New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office.
“We are confident that no disinterested investigator who reviews this evidence would adopt the governor’s self-serving characterization of his behavior as mentorship or, at worst, unwanted flirtation,” Katz said. “He was not acting as a mentor and his remarks were not misunderstood by Ms. Bennett.”
In coming out publicly with her allegations, Bennett said that she “fully expected to be attacked by those who reflexively question the honesty or motivation of those who report sexual harassment,” saying that she is “not deterred by these voices.”
“Coming forward was an excruciating decision. I decided to share my story because I had faith that I would be supported and believed. This is often not the case,” she said.
“Sharing my experience was only possible because of past survivors who stood up and told their stories. I hope that my story helps other survivors feel like they can stand in their truth.”
Bennett, who grew up in Northern Westchester and attended John Jay High School in Lewisboro before her 2013 graduation, was a former member of the Katonah Volunteer Ambulance Corps. and a volunteer at Hope’s Door in Pleasantville.
Cuomo issued a statement defending his actions following Bennett's accusations, while acknowledging that “questions have been raised about some of my past interactions with people in the office.”
“I never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm. I spend most of my life at work and colleagues are often also personal friends,” he said. “At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I do, on occasion, tease people in what I think is a good-natured way. I do it in public and in private.
“You have seen me do it at briefings hundreds of times. I have teased people about their personal lives, their relationships, about getting married or not getting married. I mean no offense and only attempt to add some levity and banter to what is a very serious business.”
Cuomo said that he “now understands that (his) interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of (his) comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended.”
“I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that,” Cuomo said. “To be clear I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but these are allegations that New Yorkers deserve answers to.”
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