Gov. Cuomo again defended himself and denied allegations of sexual harassment Monday before joking about having an “intimate” relationship with New York’s health commissioner.
The embattled governor, facing several probes and an impeachment inquiry into his conduct after multiple women accused him of inappropriate behavior, repeated his assertion that simply making someone uncomfortable is not harassment.
“There is a legal definition of harassment that is very clear. All I was saying is just making someone uncomfortable does not mean sexual harassment,” Cuomo said during a press briefing at Radio City Music Hall as he attempted to clarify comments made last week.
He went on to strike a defiant tone and complain that the allegations against him, which include a current staffer who says he groped her last year at the Executive Mansion in Albany, have been “distorted” and “manipulated” by the media.
“I’m going to tell you the truth and the facts about this entire situation that has been, I think, distorted in the press and manipulated, and when the time is right, I will tell you the truth and the facts and I am very much looking forward to it,” Cuomo said.
Asked whether he has ever had an intimate or sexual relationship with a state worker, the governor scoffed at the question.
“Intimate, you mean sexual relationship?” he said. “Intimate has a number of manifestations.”
Cuomo then turned to state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, chuckled, and said, “I think we have an intimate relationship, don’t you think? Yeah, not a sexual relationship.”
He then answered “no” to the original question posed before leaning toward Zucker again and asking him with a laugh: “Made you uncomfortable with that question, didn’t I?”
Attorney General Letitia James’ office is overseeing an independent probe into the governor’s behavior. Over the weekend it was reported that four of the women who have accused Cuomo of sexual harassment have been subpoenaed as part of the investigation.
Charlotte Bennett, who accused Cuomo of making sexual advances while the two were alone in his Albany office, is expected to testify under oath in the next two weeks, a spokeswoman for her lawyer confirmed Saturday.
Cuomo is also facing a chorus of calls for his resignation and an impeachment inquiry being run by the state Assembly that is looking at the claims of inappropriate comments and unwanted advances.
Bennett, 25, alleges that the 63-year-old governor told her he was open to dating women in their twenties and asked her about her sex life and whether she slept with older men.
“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” she told The New York Times about an incident from last June.
Cuomo has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing after initially issuing an emotional apology and said he doesn’t believe making someone uncomfortable equates to harassment.
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