ALBANY, N.Y. (NewsNation Now) — At least two women who have accused New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment have talked with state investigators assigned to look into the governor’s workplace conduct.
Ana Liss, a former aide for Cuomo, confirmed to NewsNation affiliate WROC that the New York State Attorney General’s Office contacted her about scheduling an interview about allegations against the governor. Liss has called her time in the governor’s office “toxic, retaliatory, hostile.”
Liss said the interview is expected to happen this week.
Investigators also met with Charlotte Bennett Monday met via Zoom for more than four hours
During the interview, Bennett revealed new details about Cuomo’s behavior and what she said was a “sexually hostile work environment,” according to her lawyer, including a claim the governor frequently made suggestive remarks about the size of his hands.
“One piece of new information that came to light today was the Governor’s preoccupation with his hand size and what the large size of his hands indicated to Charlotte and other members of his staff,” her lawyer, Debra Katz, said in a statement.
Bennett also provided investigators with 120 pages of records to corroborate her accusations, according to Katz.
Bennett and Liss are two of the multiple women who have accused Cuomo of workplace harassment. Some have said Cuomo demeaned them with pet nicknames or objectifying remarks about their appearance, subjected them to unwanted kisses and touches or asked them about their sex lives. A few, including Bennett, said they believed the governor was probing their interest in a sexual relationship.
Cuomo also faces an allegation that he groped a female staff member under her shirt after summoning her to the governor’s mansion in Albany late last year.
The claims have led to a chorus of Cuomo’s fellow Democrats demanding his resignation, including, on Friday, both of New York’s U.S. senators. More than 130 state lawmakers have said Cuomo should resign, including Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. The state Assembly has opened up an impeachment investigation.
New York state senator Alessandra Biaggi, who briefly worked for the governor, spoke with NewsNation affiliate WPIX, about her experience with the administration, calling it “a very dark moment in my life.”
Biaggi maintained that while she did not experience sexual harassment while working on the administration, she did experience “inappropriate behavior.”
During her second week on the job, her team was at the governor’s mansion for a traditional “song and dance” about the budget process. Biaggi said that after coming off the stage with her peers, the governor did not formally introduce himself or warmly welcome her to the team, but instead, “grabbed my elbow and said, ‘nice dance moves.’”
She believes stories like this demonstrate a bigger pattern of the Cuomo using his control to dominate and overpower people.
“When we hear a lot of the governor’s accounts, and we’re listening to what he’s saying, the idea that he wouldn’t understand that that’s inappropriate, is not credible,” Biaggi said.
Reflecting on her time working on the Cuomo administration, Biaggi described it as “a culture of fear,” that comes from the top.
“It is a culture where people are incessantly berated and yelled at,” she recalled. “There is intimidation tactics that happen if you’re not considered someone who is going to just carry out the orders or the commands of the governor in a way that, perhaps, that he sees fit, even if you believe that it’s unethical.”
Even as he remained overshadowed by scandal, Cuomo has tried to press on and project normalcy.
Monday he appeared at a vaccination site on Long Island and talked about the importance of getting a new state budget done by an April 1 deadline — one he said was critical to getting the state back on its feet.
That’s a process that normally involves intense negotiations and deal-making between Cuomo and the two top leaders in the Legislature. This year, though, Cuomo is having to negotiate with people who have demanded that he step down.
“The majority of the Legislature has called for his impeachment or resignation,” Baruch College political science professor Doug Muzzio said. “So I mean, you know, how can you work with a legislature that is composed of his antagonists? It doesn’t work.”
The attorney general, James, last week named a former federal prosecutor, Joon Kim, and employment discrimination attorney Anne Clark to lead the Cuomo investigation. They have full subpoena power and will document their findings in a public report.
Cuomo, a Democrat, has said he’ll “fully cooperate.” His office didn’t immediately comment Monday when asked about Bennett’s interview with investigators.
The attorney general’s investigation is on top of scrutiny that Cuomo is facing from federal prosecutors who are scrutinizing how his administration handled data on COVID-19 outbreaks at nursing homes.
Cuomo has insisted he won’t let himself be distracted and he won’t resign.
At his event at the Long Island vaccination site Monday, from which reporters were barred, ostensibly because of COVID-19 restrictions, the governor didn’t address the scandal but did speak generally of comebacks in the face of adversity.
“Sometimes, God comes and he knocks you on your rear end for one reason or another, or life comes and knocks you on your rear end for one reason or another,” Cuomo said in a comment that was intended to reference the state’s situation, but could also apply to his personal troubles.
”The question is what you do when you get knocked on your rear end. And New Yorkers get up, and they get up stronger, and they learn the lesson.”
The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliates WROC and WPIX contributed to this report.