One of the women who has accused Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment had harsh words for the governor in her first interview since going public with her claims.
Charlotte Bennett, the second of three women to accuse Cuomo of harassment, was interviewed by “CBS Evening News” host Norah O'Donnell on Thursday, March 4.
In the interview, Bennett said that Cuomo made inappropriate comments toward her, including asking about her sexual relationships and making comments that he was looking for a girlfriend.
“He is a textbook abuser,” said Bennett, who was the governor's executive assistant and a health policy adviser. “He lets his temper and his anger rule the office, but he was very sweet to me for a year in the hope that maybe one day, when he came on to me, I would think we were friends or that it was appropriate or okay.”
Bennett, who grew up in Northern Westchester, said that Cuomo repeatedly asked questions to her that led to the conclusion that “the governor is trying to sleep with me.”
“Without explicitly saying it, he implied to me that I was old enough for him and he was lonely," she said, adding that Cuomo had also asked her if she had difficulty in romantic relationships due to her being a survivor of a sexual assault. “He asked if I had trouble enjoying being with someone because of my trauma.
“The governor asked me if I was sensitive to intimacy," she added. ”He asked if it made it hard to really be with someone physically.
"I think it's really strategic. I think abusers look for vulnerabilities, previous traumas, the idea that maybe I'm more willing to accept behavior because I have a history of sexual violence," Bennett continued. "Perhaps I'm not as confident in myself because of my history."
According to Bennett, she felt compelled to respond to Cuomo due to his power as a governor, which “made him feel like he was untouchable in a lot of ways.”
“I really was uncomfortable and understood that my boss was asking these questions, so I was trying to answer them," she said. "I feel like people put the onus on the woman to shut that conversation down. And by answering, I was somehow engaging in that or enabling it, when in fact, I was just terrified."
Cuomo has denied any misgivings in a lengthy apology during a news conference on Wednesday, March 3, claiming that it was never his intention to make anyone uncomfortable or uneasy.
“My intent doesn’t matter," said Cuomo during his first public appearance in nearly a week. "What matters is if anyone was offended by it, and I could intend no offense, but if they were offended by it, then it was wrong. If they were offended by it, I apologize, and if they felt pain from it, I apologize.”
According to Cuomo, the new allegations have provided him with a learning experience, though he vowed not to step away from office amid James’ investigation.
“I want you to know that I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult decision for me, as well as other people,” he said. “And I’ve learned an important lesson. I’m sorry … I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone. I never intended it.”
Bennett dismissed Cuomo’s apology, stating that “it’s not an issue of (her) feelings, it’s an issue of his actions.”
“The fact is that he was sexually harassing me and he has not apologized for sexually harassing me,” she said. “And he can't even use my name.”
Bennett said that due to Cuomo’s position of power, she was hesitant to come forward with her sexual harassment allegations.
“When I was even thinking of coming forward, I think that was when I had the most shame," she said. "I really was uncomfortable. I feel like people put the onus on the woman to shut that conversation down, and by answering I was somehow engaging in that or enabling it. … It didn’t feel like I had a choice.”
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