Gov. Cuomo backs down on plan to pick lawyer to review his alleged sexual misconduct

U.S.

Photo: Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

(NewsNation Now) —  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office backed down on its plan to choose an investigator to review sexual harassment allegations against him, saying on Sunday it had instead asked the state’s attorney general and an appeals court judge to pick a lawyer to conduct an independent review.

Cuomo has faced a string of controversies in recent weeks including how his administration handled high numbers of COVID-19 deaths in the state’s nursing homes.

Beth Garvey, Special Counsel and Senior Advisor to Cuomo said in a statement Sunday it wanted the probe to be done “in a manner beyond reproach” after two former aides came forward in recent days to make accusations of sexual misconduct by the governor, which he has denied.

It said that on Saturday it had selected a former federal judge, Barbara Jones, to lead the investigation, but wanted now to avoid “even the perception of a lack of independence or inference of politics.”

It said it had asked the Attorney General of New York State and the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals to jointly select an independent lawyer without political affiliation to conduct a thorough review and issue a public report.

“All members of the Governor’s office will cooperate fully. We will have no further comment until the report is issued,” special counsel to Cuomo Beth Garvey said in a statement.

New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement Sunday, “there must be a truly independent investigation to thoroughly review these troubling allegations against the governor, and I stand ready to oversee that investigation and make any appointments necessary.”

Cuomo issued another statement Sunday addressing the accusations, acknowledging some of his comments may have been “insensitive or too personal,” but maintained he “never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable.”

“Questions have been raised about some of my past interactions with people in the office.

“I never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm. I spend most of my life at work and colleagues are often also personal friends.

“At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I do, on occasion, tease people in what I think is a good natured way. I do it in public and in private. You have seen me do it at briefings hundreds of times. I have teased people about their personal lives, their relationships, about getting married or not getting married. I mean no offense and only attempt to add some levity and banter to what is a very serious business.

“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.

“To be clear I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but these are allegations that New Yorkers deserve answers to.

“That’s why I have asked for an outside, independent review that looks at these allegations.

“Separately, my office has heard anecdotally that some people have reached out to Ms. Bennett to express displeasure about her coming forward. My message to anyone doing that is you have misjudged what matters to me and my administration and you should stop now – period.”

n.y. gov. andrew cuomo

Reuters contributed to this report.

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