Charlotte Bennett, a former aide and the second of three women accusing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) of sexual harassment detailed the multiple inappropriate remarks the governor said while propositioning her for sex that occurred during the same time the Big Apple State was the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic and the Democrat soaring to national prominence.
In her first televised exclusive interview Thursday night since coming forward with allegations claims, Bennett recounted how Cuomo was allegedly probing personal questions “about her sex life,” including whether she even “had sex with older men.”
“I thought, he was trying to sleep with me,” Bennett told CBS News host Norah O’Donnell. “The governor is trying to sleep with me and I’m deeply uncomfortable and I have to get out of this room as soon as possible.”
The former aide during one of the first portion of the interview reiterated claims she alleged to the New York Times last Saturday against the governor when she came forward with her accusations.
“Without explicitly saying it, he implied to me that I was old enough for him and he was lonely,” she said.
Bennett said the media played a big role in emboldened Cuomo to make him feel “untouchable” and the special attention the governor received that made his national profile rose enabled him to make inappropriate remarks towards her.
“The pandemic was obviously stressful for all of us. And he was on TV nearly every day talking about it,” Bennett said.
“So, you think all this national attention may have emboldened him?” O’Donnell followed up.
“Absolutely,” she responded. “I think he felt like he was untouchable in a lot of ways.”
As New York continued to lead in the highest counts of cases and death reported, Bennett recounted the incident that occurred on May 15 when the governor began asking her personal questions “about her love life,” while also being heavily “fixated” on the fact that she was a sexual assault survivor.”He goes, ‘you were raped, you were raped. You were raped and abused and assaulted,’” Bennett recalled in the interview.
The remarks escalated to another level on June 5, when she was called into the governor’s office with Cuomo insinuating to her that he was “looking for a girlfriend,” because he was “lonely” and “tired.”
“He asked if I had trouble, enjoying being with someone because of my trauma,” she added on to her previous claims later on during the interview, shocking the CBS News host.
O’Donnell interjected, saying “this seems highly inappropriate,” to which Bennett agreed, “Yeah.”
“The governor asked me if I was sensitive to intimacy,” Bennett continued. “In his office?” the CBS host asked.
“Yes. During the workday,” Bennett said.
Bennett admitted that said she felt “the most shame” initially and had hesitations about coming forward, because she responded honestly to Cuomo’s questions, despite feeling uncomfortable during the engagement.
“When I was even thinking of coming forward, I think that was where I felt the most shame and that, like, I really was uncomfortable,” she told O’Donnell. “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.”
In response to Cuomo’s claims that he was misinterpreted, Bennett said “I understood him loud and clear. It just didn’t go the way he planned.”
Cuomo in his first public remarks since the three allegations lodged against him surfaced, the governor said he was “embarrassed,” but rebuffed the loud calls from lawmakers on both sides in refusing to resign.
“I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly, I am embarrassed by it,” Cuomo said. “I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone, I never intended it, and I will be the better for this experience.”
When asked if she saw the governor’s press conference on Wednesday, Bennett said yes, but rejected his public apology.
“It’s not an apology. It’s not an issue of my 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. And he can’t even use my name,” Bennett said, referencing Cuomo’s response when he said his apology was directed to “the young woman who worked here, who said that I made her feel uncomfortable in the workplace.”
A Cuomo spokesman responded to The Floridian request for comment by emailing experts of the governor’s remarks he made Wednesday where he apologized nearly a dozen and a half times during the 45-minute press conference. Cuomo’s office also pointed to a statement issued by the governor’s special counsel and senior adviser Beth Garvey she stated over the weekend that included the assertion that former Manhattan federal Judge Barbara Jones “will lead the review” of the allegations against Cuomo.
Two of the sexual harassment accusations are coming from former aides to the governor, and the third woman, who worked in the Obama administration and previously in the Biden 2020 presidential campaign said she met Cuomo at a wedding in 2019 during which he allegedly made unwanted advances. The claims are now the subject of an independent investigation to be solely conducted without the governor’s input from New York Attorney General Letitia James.
The governor’s cascading series of scandals that includes his administration revealing they covered up the real data of COVID death in nursing homes has led to a growing number of New York state and national lawmakers including some from within his own party, as well as prominent political organizations calling on Cuomo to be impeached. On Friday, both the New York state Senate and Assembly are moving forward with the first step in stripping Cuomo of the temporary emergency powers he was granted last year to deal with the pandemic.