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Another former aide accuses Cuomo of sexual harassment, Dem governor calls for ‘outside review’

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s sexual harassment scandal just ballooned from horrifically bad to catastrophically bad thanks to a new report documenting yet another set of sexual harassment allegations against him from a former aide.

The report by The New York Times details the way that Cuomo, 63, allegedly behaved toward Charlotte Bennett, 25, who served as “an executive assistant and health policy adviser in the Cuomo administration until she left in November.”

Speaking with the paper, Bennett claimed that during two private meetings with the governor early last summer, he peppered her with a litany of highly inappropriate questions of a sexual nature.

During the first meeting on May 15th, he started “asking about her love life and, in a gossipy way, whether she was involved with other members of the governor’s staff,” according to the Times.

He also made bizarre comments about a speech on her experiences as a survivor of sexual assault that she’d been scheduled at the time to deliver at her alma mater, Hamilton College.

The way he was repeating, ‘You were raped and abused and attacked and assaulted and betrayed,’ over and over again while looking me directly in the eyes was something out of a horror movie. It was like he was testing me,” she reportedly complained in a text to a friend afterward.

Bennett told the Times that she believes May 15th was the “turning point in our relationship.” Prior to that day, she’d viewed Cuomo as a mentor and father figure, and had presumed therefore that he viewed her as a daughter.

Bennett is the second former aide who’s accused Cuomo of sexual harassment.

Then came a meeting with the governor at his State Capitol office on June 5th during which Cuomo ramped up the sexual rhetoric.

[S]he said the governor had asked her numerous questions about her personal life, including whether she thought age made a difference in romantic relationships, and had said that he was open to relationships with women in their 20s — comments she interpreted as clear overtures to a sexual relationship,” according to the Times.

“He asked me if I believed if age made a difference in relationships and he also asked me in the same conversation if I had ever been with an older man,” Bennett said to the paper.

He also pointed out to her that “he’s fine with anyone above the age of 22,” she added.

And he repeatedly complained about feeling lonely ever since his relationship with celebrity chef Sandra Lee ended a year earlier.

According to Bennett, he said Lee was “out of the picture” and admitted that he was “wanting a girlfriend, preferably in the Albany area.”

I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared. And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job,” she said.

The Times obtained confirmation of these allegations by viewing the text messages she’d sent to her friends and family after the meetings occurred.

“Ms. Bennett said she had told her parents and friends about the exchange with the governor around the time that it happened, as well as about her growing discomfort with having to work closely with him, and had kept text messages from that period. The Times reviewed the messages and confirmed their contents with those who received them,” the Times reported.

Bennett also spoke with Cuomo’s chief of staff, Jill DesRosiers, reportedly five days after the June 5th meeting.

“Ms. Bennett said she had recounted her interaction with Mr. Cuomo and she recalled that Ms. DesRosiers had asked a few questions, been apologetic and asked to speak to her again in two days,” as reported by the Times.

“Two days later, on June 12, Ms. DesRosiers told Ms. Bennett she would be transferred to a new position as a health policy adviser, still working in the executive branch, but in a different part of the Capitol.”

A couple of weeks later, Bennett also spoke with a special counsel to the governor. Soon after, however, she decided to “let this go and move on,” she told the Times.

That all changed this week when Cuomo’s first accuser, former aide Lindsey Boylan, published a horrifying piece on Medium documenting her own experiences with Cuomo. In response to the piece, Bennett tweeted the following:

The tweet drew the attention of the Times, which then reached out to her and asked if she’d be willing to open up about her own experiences. She obviously said yes.

Like with both Boylan’s allegations and his nursing home scandal, Cuomo has of course stuck to denying that he did anything wrong, issuing a statement framing his remarks as him just trying to be “supportive and helpful.”

“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,” he reportedly said.

“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.”

Likewise, the governor’s special counsel Beth Garvey released her own statement claiming that the issue had already been resolved during their meeting in June.

“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 reportedly said.

“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.”

Vivek Saxena

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