A second former aide to scandal-plagued New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has come forward to accuse him of sexual harassment, saying the encounters occurred during the time the Big Apple state was on tight lockdown after becoming the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic last spring.
Charlotte Bennett, who was an executive assistant and health policy adviser and being only 25 years of age told The New York Times that the governor harassed her before she left his administration in November.
The former aide said that Cuomo would continuously ask her questions about her sex life, including whether if she ever had slept with an older man. During one incident she vividly described to the publication that occurred last June as the coronavirus pandemic flared, Bennett was alone with the governor in his State Capitol office where Cuomo allegedly asked her if she thought that his age of being 63 made a difference for her in having a romantic relationship.
She stated those types of remarks from Cuomo were “comments she interpreted as clear overtures to a sexual relationship.”
“Age doesn’t matter,” Cuomo told Bennett, according to the Times. The governor told her he was “fine with anyone above the age of 22,” despite the fact that Bennett is also about the same age as Cuomo’s eldest daughter.
“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett said. “And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”
Bennett said that during the same June encounter, Cuomo would complain to her about being very “lonely” since ending a 14-year relationship with celebrity chef Sandra Lee. The governor expressed his frustration amid the coronavirus lockdowns he imposed on New Yorkers, stating how he “can’t even hug anyone” before asked her, “Who did I last hug?”
She apparently attempted to switch the subject by responding that she missed hugging her parents. However, Cuomo pressed her to get her to respond in more sexually pejorative, asking her “‘‘No, I mean like really hugged somebody?'”
Cuomo also stressed to Bennett that his ex-girlfriend was “out of the picture,” and referred to now “wanting a girlfriend, preferably in the Albany area.”
When Bennett told Cuomo in May of her experience being a sexual assault survivor, the governor apparently seemed fixated by her story.
“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,” Bennett told her friend in text messages that she shared to The Times. “It was like he was testing me.”
Bennett said although Cuomo never made any physical advances, she reported the verbal interactions to Cuomo’s chief of staff, Jill DesRosiers, a week later after the June incident and was transferred to another job, as a health policy adviser. She also submitted a lengthier statement to Cuomo’s special counsel Judith Mogul towards the end of that month.
The former health aide said she decided not to take action and come forward because she was happy at her new job and “wanted to move on.” The Times contacted Bennett, according to the publication and she has agreed to share her own accounts of harassment. She said she felt an obligation to other victims of sexual harassment and wanted to counter the way Cuomo “wields his power.”
In a press release on Saturday, Cuomo said that Bennett is a “hardworking and valued member of our team during COVID” who 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,” Cuomo said in a statement. “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 added that he has “no further comment” until a “full and thorough outside review” of Bennett’s claims is conducted and concluded.
The Democrat governor did not deny Bennett’s claims about asking her these types of personal questions. The governor’s special counsel and senior adviser, Beth Garvey said in a statement that Cuomo “has requested an independent review and all staff will cooperate in that endeavor. Former Federal Judge Barbara Jones will lead the review.”
However, Cuomo’s office has denied Boylan’s harassment claims, calling them “simply false” and insisting the strip poker comment “did not happen.”
Bennett’s accusations, where the Times said are supported by numerous encounters exchanged thru texts, come days after another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, a former deputy secretary for economic development, and a special adviser shared details of her sexual harassment allegation against Cuomo that spanned over several years.
In a tweet just shortly after The Times released the article, Boylan shared her support towards Bennett, by offering a strong rebuke towards Cuomo.
“You are not going to derail or destroy any more lives [Governor Cuomo],” Boylan tweeted.
In the bombshell 1,700-word essay published Wednesday on the website Medium, Boylan accused Cuomo of going “out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs,” forcibly kissing her on the lips during a one-on-one briefing, and suggesting that they “play strip poker” during a plane ride.
Republicans and a few handful of Democratic state lawmakers have called for the three-term governor to be investigated after Boylan’s detailed claims emerged. However, many leading female Democratic lawmakers were all muted after Boylan’s allegation, despite being very outspoken in opposing Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court over accusations of sexual assault back in 2018.
On top of the double sexual allegations, Cuomo, a Democratic and media star was facing political fire from both sides in recent weeks over his handling of its nursing home crisis during the coronavirus pandemic. After Cuomo’s top aide revealed the administration withheld data on the full nursing homes coronavirus death toll out of “fear” of being investigated by Trump’s Department of Justice, calls were slowly growing to probe the governor, both state and nationwide.