Governor Andrew Cuomo left two female aides looking uncomfortable as he commented on their outfits less than 30 seconds into his press briefing, before insisting the two different women working for him who have accused him of sexual harassment will be ‘protected from retaliation’.
Cuomo, who has now been accused of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior by eight different women, commented on the clothes Assistant Secretary for Resiliency and Economic Development Molly Reilly and Director of State Operations Kelly Cummings were wearing as the two women joined him Wednesday in New York City.
‘It is a coincidence that Kelly and Molly happen to have the same attire today,’ he said, in an apparent reference to their matching light blue jackets.
‘I believe it’s a coincidence. I know it is a coincidence. It’s not like any government regulation,’ he added, as the two women both nodded along.
His comments came at the start of his briefing where he said the two current aides who have accused him of sexual harassment are ‘protected’ but did not explain how, and denied that he can no longer do his job amid the escalating scandal.
A total of eight women have now come forward to accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior, with two of the accusers still working for him.
Alyssa McGrath became the eighth accuser Friday – and the first named current aide – as she told The New York Times the governor ogled her body, called her and her co-worker ‘mingle mamas’ and asked about her lack of a wedding ring.
This came after another female aide, who has remained anonymous, claimed he called her to his Executive Mansion last year, reached under her blouse and fondled her.
New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office is investigating the allegations and an impeachment investigation was also launched by state Democrats, while top New York lawmakers including Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer are demanding he resign.
The governor has said he ‘never touched anyone inappropriately’ but apologized for making anyone feel ‘uncomfortable’ and has vowed he will not stand down.
In a clear sign of his plans of not going anywhere, Cuomo announced his budget priorities Wednesday saying legalizing pot was his number one priority as he vowed to reform the state’s nursing homes – as he continues to also come under fire over the COVID-19 nursing home deaths scandal.
Governor Cuomo left two female aides looking uncomfortable as he commented on their outfits less than 30 seconds into his briefing. Assistant Secretary for Resiliency and Economic Development Molly Reilly (right) and Director of State Operations Kelly Cummings (left)
Cuomo was asked Wednesday how the two current aides were being protected and if they were working from home as their accusations of sexual harassment are investigated by the AG’s office.
The governor avoided answering the question pointing to both the ongoing impeachment probe by the state Assembly and the AG’s investigation as reason for his silence.
‘As I’ve said a number of times, the Assembly is doing a review, the attorney general is doing a review and we’re cooperating with that review and I won’t have a comment on it,’ he said.
‘And any conditions they have in that review are being followed.’
The governor’s Special Counsel Beth Garvey shielded the questions claiming Cuomo’s office is ‘taking measures’ but said any further comment on the matter would be ‘inappropriate.’
As he was pressed further on the matter, Cuomo began saying ‘there are rules’ before Garvey interjected.
‘Sorry Beth you want to go ahead?’ Cuomo asked.
Garvey replied saying ‘yes please governor’ before making the vague statement that ‘measures’ are being taken.
‘So, certainly, every individual who comes forward and makes a complaint is protected from retaliation and we are taking measures to ensure that that occurs in this case as well,’ she said.
‘And any further comment as to the specifics would be inappropriate at this time.’
Cuomo insisted the two current aides who have accused him of sexual harassment are ‘protected from retaliation’ but did not explain how
The governor’s Special Counsel Beth Garvey (center) shielded questions during his press briefing Wednesday saying Cuomo’s office is ‘taking measures’ to ensure the women are protected but said any further comment on the matter would be ‘inappropriate’
A total of eight women have now come forward to accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior, with two of the accusers still working for him. Alyssa McGrath (pictured) became the first named current aide Friday
Another female aide, who has remained anonymous, claimed he called her to his Executive Mansion last year, reached under her blouse and fondled her
Cuomo added: ‘Beth’s point is that there are rules and conditions about how people who make complaints are handled and we’re following those.’
Neither Cuomo nor Garvey explained what this ‘protection’ entails or whether the two accusers are still working with the governor while their claims are looked into.
McGrath told the NY Times of several alleged incidents of sexual harassment while working for the governor.
She claimed Cuomo looked down her shirt to compliment her on her necklace, told her she’s beautiful in Italian and kissed her on the forehead during an office Christmas party in 2019.
She described a pattern of flirtatious behavior which began not long after she started working for him in May 2018.
‘He has a way of making you feel very comfortable around him, almost like you’re his friend,’ McGrath said.
‘But then you walk away from the encounter or conversation, in your head going, ‘I can’t believe I just had that interaction with the governor of New York’.’
McGrath (pictured) claimed Cuomo looked down her shirt to compliment her on her necklace during a meeting with him
Lindsey Boylan, a former Cuomo aide, came out in December with allegations against him – she further detailed her experience in a February post to Medium
Anna Ruch (left) and Ana Liss both accused Cuomo of inappropriate behavior
Karen Hinton (left), a press aide, and Jessica Bakeman accused Cuomo of inappropriate actions
Charlotte Bennett, 25, accused Cuomo of propositioning her in his office in June
McGrath also doubled down on the allegations made by her coworker – the anonymous accuser – saying the woman had told her about the incident.
The unnamed woman, who was Cuomo’s sixth accuser, has made the most damning accusation against the governor to date claiming he groped her breast in the Executive Mansion.
‘She froze when he started doing that stuff to her,’ McGrath told The New York Times.
McGrath said the co-worker told her Cuomo had asked her not to talk about the alleged incident.
‘He told her specifically not to tell me,’ McGrath said.
Cuomo’s administration last week hired outside counsel to investigate the specific groping claim.
He has denied inappropriately touching anyone but said he may have inadvertently made some women feel uncomfortable in the past by hugging and kissing them as a greeting.
Cuomo was asked Wednesday to respond to critics who say he can no longer do his job as governor amid the probe into the harassment accusations.
‘I say it is clearly not true the reality is the exact opposite,’ he said.
‘We’re opening new vaccination centers all over the state, we have increased capacity dramatically, we are negotiating the budget as we speak and we are doing that and we are making good progress on that.’
In a clear sign of his plans of not going anywhere, Cuomo outlined upcoming budget plans
He said legalizing pot was his number one priority. Pictured a marijauna rally outside his office in 2019
He hit back at critics arguing that they ‘don’t even understand the nature of the job.’
‘They were just wrong. They don’t even understand the nature of the job,’ he said.
‘The nature of being governor is there are always multiple situations to deal with.’
Though the governor didn’t name names, his comments came just hours after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a longtime foe, repeated his views that Cuomo no longer lead the state.
‘I think he should resign so we can move forward in this state,’ de Blasio said.
Cuomo tried to make light of the question about his capacity to govern by saying that the last president had been more of a distraction to his tenure.
‘The past four years we had to deal with Donald Trump as president,’ he said smirking.
‘You want to talk about distraction that was a distraction.’
Cuomo, whose daily press conferences at the height of the pandemic won him an Emmy last year, outlined his ‘top priorities’ for the state’s upcoming budget which has an April 1 deadline.
His top priority is to legalize marijuana he said, a move which he described as ‘essential.’
‘Getting it done by the time the budget is passed is essential,’ he said.
The governor admitted he has been trying to legalize hemp and recreational marijuana for three years in line with neighboring state New Jersey.
‘We have been trying to legalize cannabis for three years. I failed every year,’ he said.
‘We’re close but we have been close three times before. If we were playing horse shoes we would be in good shape but this is not horse shoes.’
Cuomo said he understood why some people oppose its legalization but said ‘we have passed the point of legalized cannabis’ and ‘we don’t live in a perfect world’.
The governor also vowed to focus on reforming nursing homes.
‘We have to reform our nursing home programs,’ he said.
‘For profit nursing homes like many for profit service providers to me pose an inherent conflict.’
He gave the example of for profit prisons saying they make money by saving money on meals and providing fewer services.
‘I’m more interested in making sure a for profit nursing home invests in the facilities, in the people, in the services, in the care,’ he said.
Cuomo also vowed to reform the state’s nursing homes – as he continues to also come under fire over the COVID-19 nursing home deaths scandal. Pictured a COVID-19 patient at a Broolyln nursing home last April
Relatives of those who died of COVID-19 in New York nursing homes gathered on Sunday
‘I don’t want for profit nursing homes squeezing profit out of the nursing homes and maximizing profit by minimizing the quality of care.’
Cuomo has been slammed for his treatment of nursing homes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cuomo issued a directive on March 25 last year ordering nursing homes to readmit COVID-positive patients because of a lack of space in hospitals.
The move has been slammed for costing many lives given the elderly were especially vulnerable and that nursing homes were hotbeds for the virus.
The ruling was reversed on May 10, barring nursing homes from accepting COVID-19 patients without a negative test first.
This January, New York AG Letitia James said the state had downplayed the number of deaths of nursing home residents by 50 percent.
The death toll was actually 15,000, up from the 8,500 previously disclosed.
The new figures mean around one-seventh of the state’s entire nursing home population of 90,000 have been killed by the virus.
The state’s total death toll was unchanged following the revelation as the deaths had been counted in overall figures.
The change in number was down to nursing home residents who had been transported to hospital where they then died not being counted in the nursing home death tally.
In February Cuomo was then accused of intentionally hiding the data and federal prosecutors began investigating a possible coverup.
Dozens of people gathered Sunday at the We Care Memorial Wall in Brooklyn at the weekend holding signs saying they were ‘Cuomo Covid Orphans’ because of his nursing home policies.