In a statement released during increasing scrutiny from within his party, the Democrat insisted he had never inappropriately touched or solicited anyone. But he said he had bothered people about their personal lives in an effort to be “playful.”
“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,” he said.
Cuomo, one of America’s most notorious governors, is facing the most serious provocation of his decade in office following allegations he sexually offended at least two women who served under him. Democrats in New York and around the country aren’t returning to his side, leaving him increasingly apart from traditional allies.
His partial acknowledgment of wrongdoing came after a day of disputing over who should probe into his workplace behavior.
By day’s end, Cuomo complied with demands that Attorney General Letitia James control the inquiry.
James said she expected to receive a formal referral that would give her office subpoena power and allow her to deputize outside law firms for “a rigorous and independent investigation.”
“This is not a responsibility we take lightly,” said James, a Democrat who has been, at times, friends with Cuomo but is independently elected and had appeared as a consensus choice to lead an investigation.
Demands for an investigation surfaced after a second former employee of Cuomo’s administration went public Saturday with harassment claims.
Charlotte Bennett, a low-level aide in the governor’s administration until November, told The New York Times Cuomo asked questions about her sex life, including whether she ever had sex with older men, and made other remarks she outlined as gauging her interest in an affair.
Her charge came days following another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, a former economic development adviser, further explained harassment claims she first made in December. Boylan said Cuomo subjected her to an unwanted kiss and comments about her appearance.
Cuomo, 63, said he had expected to be a mentor for Bennett, who is 25. He has denied Boylan’s allegations.
Over several hours Sunday, James and other leading party officials dismissed two of Cuomo’s proposals for how an investigation might proceed.