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N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo Accused of Sexual Harassment by Second Former Aide, 25, Who Says He Asked If She Ever had Sex With an Older Man

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), 63, has been accused of sexual harassment by a second former aide in a bombshell report by the New York Times published Saturday evening.

Charlotte Bennett, 25, told the Times that Cuomo started asking personal questions of a sexual nature last May after previously acting as a mentor. Bennet now says she believes Cuomo was grooming her by taking an interest in her life.

Cuomo denies harassing Bennett and Bennett says Cuomo never tried to touch or kiss her. However Bennett says he asked her when she last hugged someone, if she was monogamous, whether she was sleeping with any of Cuomo’s staffers and whether she had ever had sex with an older man while telling her he was open to dating women in their twenties. Bennett also said Cuomo focused on her being a rape survivor.

File image.

Bennett reported the conversations to Cuomo’s chief of staff and to a lawyer in his office. Bennett was given a transfer to the other side of the Capitol in Albany but soon left the government and the state. Bennett also shared with the Times contemporaneous text messages with family and friends about the alleged harassment.


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Bennett spoke to the Times after a reporter spotted her tweet commenting on the first former Cuomo staffer to accuse him of sexual harassment, Lindsey Boylan, who accused Cuomo of several instances of harassment and of kissing her, “For those wondering what it’s like to work for the Cuomo admin, read
@LindseyBoylan’s story.”

 

Excerpt from the Times report.

 

A second former aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is accusing him of sexual harassment, saying that he asked her questions about her sex life, whether she was monogamous in her relationships and if she had ever had sex with older men.

The aide, Charlotte Bennett, who was an executive assistant and health policy adviser in the Cuomo administration until she left in November, told The New York Times that the governor had harassed her late last spring, during the height of the state’s fight against the coronavirus.

Ms. Bennett, 25, said the most unsettling episode occurred on June 5, when she was alone with Mr. Cuomo in his State Capitol office. In a series of interviews this week, she 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.

…Ms. Bennett said that during the June encounter, the governor, 63, also complained to her about being lonely during the pandemic, mentioning that he “can’t even hug anyone,” before turning the focus to Ms. Bennett. She said that Mr. Cuomo asked her, “Who did I last hug?”

…Ms. Bennett said she had tried to dodge the question by responding that she missed hugging her parents. “And he was, like, ‘No, I mean like really hugged somebody?’” she said.

…On May 15, she said she arrived at the Capitol around 7 a.m. to find Mr. Cuomo already at work. Ms. Bennett was there to drop off some briefing papers, but Mr. Cuomo was chatty, asking about her love life and, in a gossipy way, whether she was involved with other members of the governor’s staff. She memorialized the exchange in several texts to another Cuomo staff member that The Times reviewed.

Ms. Bennett said she had mentioned a speech she was scheduled to give to Hamilton students about her experience as a survivor of sexual assault. She said she had been taken aback by Mr. Cuomo’s seeming fixation on that element of her life experience.

“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,” she wrote in a second text to her friend. “It was like he was testing me.”

In retrospect, Ms. Bennett said, she viewed the May 15 meeting “as the turning point in our relationship.”

“Anything before it I now see differently,” she said. “I now understand that as grooming.”

…Ms. Bennett left state government last fall and she now lives and works in a neighboring state. She said that her anger about what had happened had continued to percolate and had led to her departure.

“His presence was suffocating,” she said. “I was thinking that I could recover and have distance but that is so naïve.”

End excerpt. Please read the complete New York Times report at this link.

Statements released by Cuomo’s office Saturday night:

Statement From Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

“Ms. Bennett was a hardworking and valued member of our team during COVID. She has every right to speak out.

“When she came to me and opened up about being a sexual assault survivor and how it shaped her and her ongoing efforts to create an organization that empowered her voice to help other survivors, 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.

“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 judgements. I will have no further comment until the review has concluded.”

STATEMENT FROM BETH GARVEY, SPECIAL COUNSEL AND SENIOR ADVISOR TO THE GOVERNOR

“Ms. Bennett’s concerns were treated with sensitivity and respect and in accordance with applicable law and policy.

“The matter was promptly escalated to special counsel. 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 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.

“Although in no way required by law, the Governor has requested an independent review and all staff will cooperate in that endeavor. Former Federal Judge Barbara Jones will lead the review.”

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