New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo defiantly denied the results of state Attorney General Letitia James' investigation into accusations tht he sexually harassed multiple women — current and former state government employees — saying that the "facts" in the cases are "much different than what has been portrayed."
"I cooperated with the review, and I can now finally share the truth," Cuomo said in a lengthy, recorded video statement released Tuesday afternoon, noting that he would fight back and has no plans to resign.
"I want you to know directly from me that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances. I am 63 years old. I've lived my entire adult life in public view. That is just not who I am, and that's not who I have ever been."
He said that the one complaint that bothered him most came from former aid, Charlotte Bennett, who said Cuomo asked her if she was open to having sex with an older man.
"It's important to me that you fully understand the situation," Cuomo said "Charlotte worked in my office last year...she was smart, talented, and eager to learn. She identified herself to me as a survivor of sexual assault."
Cuomo said she talked about the personal trauma that she had endured, and "I could see how it affected her. I could see her pain."
He said people have asked why he was talking to her, but he said her story "resonated deeply" with him as he has a family member who was a survivor of sexual assault in high school.
"I thought I could help her work through a difficult situation," said Cuomo. "I did ask questions to try to see if she had positive supportive dating relationships."
He said he's heard from Bennett and her lawyer, and he is "sorry" he complicated her situation, but "my goal was the exact opposite. I wish nothing but good for you and all survivors of sexual assault."
He also defended other actions that came out in the complaints, including a picture of himself in The New York Times showing him touching a woman's face at a wedding and kissing her.
"That is not front-page news," said Cuomo. "I have been making the same gesture in public all my life. I learned that from my mother and from my father. It is meant to convey warmth, nothing more...there are hundreds, of not thousands of photos of me doing the same gesture. I do it with everyone, black or white, young and old...people who I meet in the street."
Cuomo also insisted that he wants the New York state government to be a "model of office behavior" and said he brought in an expert to design a new sexual harassment policy for "the whole team, myself included."
"I accept responsibility, and we are making changes," he said. "I have always said my office is a demanding place to work, and that it is not for everyone. We work really, really hard. My office is not a 9-5 office, and I don't want it to be. The stakes we deal with are very high."
He also said that a number of complaints target female managers, which "smacks to me of a double standard."
He further said that people are now living in a "superheated, if not a toxic political environment. That shouldn't be lost on anyone. Politics and bias are interwoven throughout every aspect of this situation. One would be naive to think otherwise, and New Yorkers are not naive."
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