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Cuomo says his behavior towards women was ‘misinterpreted as unwanted flirtation’

  • New York Gov. Cuomo says his behavior towards women was “misinterpreted as unwanted flirtation.”
  • Two former aides have accused Cuomo of sexual harassment. 
  • Cuomo said New York Attorney General Letitia James will now lead the investigation.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his behavior towards women had been “misinterpreted as unwanted flirtation” after allegations of sexual harassment had been made against him. 

In a statement released on Sunday, Cuomo said he never inappropriately touched or propositioned anyone, but said he made jokes that he thought were funny, both in public and in private.

“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,” he wrote. 

Cuomo added: “I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my 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.”

Earlier on Sunday, Cuomo reversed course on plans to have former federal judge Barbara Jones investigate the allegations against him that were brought forth by two former aides.

On Saturday, former staffer Charlotte Bennett said Cuomo asked her inappropriate questions and made unwanted sexual advances toward her, last year. 

On Friday, Lindsey Boylan, another former staffer, alleged that starting in 2016, Cuomo made unwanted sexual advances toward her. In a Medium blog post, Boylan said she resigned in 2018 after the governor kissed her on the lips without her consent. 

Cuomo has denied both of the allegations. 

In a press release, Cuomo’s office said they would ask New York Attorney General Letitia James and Janet DiFiore, the chief judge on the highest court in New York, to name “a jointly select an independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation to conduct a thorough review of the matter and issue a public report.” 

The plan to place DiFiore on the investigation was criticized by state and federal lawmakers because the judge had ties to a longtime Cuomo ally. He had also nominated her to her current role.

James also took issue with Cuomo’s proposal to have DiFiore involved in the investigation. 

“To clarify, I do not accept the governor’s proposal. The state’s Executive Law clearly gives my office the authority to investigate this matter once the governor provides a referral,” James said in a statement. “While I have deep respect for Chief Judge DiFiore, I am the duly elected attorney general and it is my responsibility to carry out this task, per Executive Law. The governor must provide this referral so an independent investigation with subpoena power can be conducted.”

Later on Sunday, Cuomo accepted James’ demands that she control the investigation, a move that she welcomed. 

“We expect to receive a 63(8) referral with subpoena power to investigate allegations of sexual harassment against the governor, in line with our demands and New York state law. The referral would be made solely to the attorney general’s office. This is not a responsibility we take lightly. We will hire a law firm, deputize them as attorneys of our office, and oversee a rigorous and independent investigation,” she said in a subsequent statement.

Insider has reached out to Cuomo, James, and DiFiore’s offices for comment. 

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