A second former aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is accusing him of sexual harassment.
Charlotte Bennett, age 25, who was an executive assistant and health policy adviser in the Cuomo administration until she left her post this past November, said the governor asked her during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic if she had ever had sex with older men, and whether she was monogamous.
Bennett made her statements in a series of interviews with The New York Times.
The new allegations come after former Cuomo aide Lindsey Boylan, In a lengthy blog post released on Wednesday, Feb 24, outlined a series of sexual harassment claims, including an allegation that the 63-year-old Cuomo kissed her "on the lips” without warning in his Manhattan office.
Cuomo denied Boylan's statements.
Responding to the new allegations by Bennett, Cuomo said in a statement:
"Ms. Bennett was a hardworking and valued member of our team during COVID. She has every right to speak out.
"When she came to me and opened up about being a sexual assault survivor and how it shaped her and her ongoing efforts to create an organization that empowered her voice to help other survivors, I tried to be supportive and helpful.
"Ms. Bennett's initial impression was right: I was trying to be a mentor to her. I never made advances toward Ms. Bennett nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate. The last thing I would ever have wanted was to make her feel any of the things that are being reported.
"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.
"I ask all New Yorkers to await the findings of the review so that they know the facts before making any judgments. I will have no further comment until the review has concluded."
State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins quickly released a statement saying that "the continued allegations are deeply disturbing and concerning.
"The behavior described has no place in the workplace. A truly independent investigation must begin immediately.”
Beth Garvey, special counsel and senior advisor to Cuomo, said that the independent review will be launched immediately.
"Ms. Bennett's concerns were treated with sensitivity and respect and in accordance with applicable law and policy," Garvey said in a statement.
"The matter was promptly escalated to special counsel. Ms. Bennett received the transfer she requested to a position in which she had expressed a long-standing interest, and was thoroughly debriefed on the facts which did not include a claim of physical contact or inappropriate sexual conduct.
"She was consulted regarding the resolution, and expressed satisfaction and appreciation for the way in which it was handled.
"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.
"Although in no way required by law, the governor has requested an independent review and all staff will cooperate in that endeavor. Former Federal Judge Barbara Jones will lead the review."
State Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt said that "the latest allegations about Gov. Cuomo’s conduct are incredibly disturbing.
"The review suggested by someone handpicked by the governor himself, is an outrageous, completely unacceptable idea. We need a truly independent investigation, which is why I continue to support the calls of my colleagues for a special prosecutor appointed by the attorney general.
"I will be convening members of the Senate Republican Conference tomorrow morning to discuss these egregious allegations and any next steps that our conference must take."
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