New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters in a press conference Monday that an upcoming state attorney general's report on accusations from multiple women who have accused him of sexual misconduct won't contradict his denials of inappropriate behavior because he said he "didn't do anything wrong."
Speaking to reporters at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse in his first face-to-face encounter in months, the Democrat abandoned his past approach of expressing contrition for some past behavior, while declining to address whether specific allegations were true.
Cuomo has tried to avoid reporters' questions about several scandals in recent months by barring them from attending news conferences, Fox News reported. But Monday's news conference was put on with short notice to announce that New York's state fair would go on as scheduled.
"You were in those rooms. You know the truth. So can you tell the people of the state of New York yes or no? Did you do the things you were accused of?" asked New York Times reporter Jesse McKinley.
"To put it very simply, no." Cuomo said.
"All the groping, the sexual harassment, you deny all of that?" McKinley said.
"That’s right. Yes," Cuomo said.
Several current and former state employees and other women have accused the governor of unwanted sexual remarks and advances, giving them unwanted kisses or touching them inappropriately.
One female aide said Cuomo groped her breasts after summoning her to his official residence last year.
Before Monday, Cuomo had repeatedly denied that he touched anyone inappropriately, but he'd used past public appearances to say he is sorry for making some people uncomfortable with comments or gestures he intended to be playful banter.
He's blamed his penchant for hugging and kissing people on his Italian-American heritage.
Asked if he would consider disciplining himself or resigning if the state attorney general, who is investigating the claims, reports he did harass women, Cuomo dismissed that as a possibility.
"The report can’t say anything different because I didn’t do anything wrong," Cuomo said.
This was the first time Cuomo has allowed a group of journalists to question him in person since the sexual harassment allegations surfaced in December.
For months, citing COVID-19 safety precautions, he has been taking questions only via telephone or internet conference calls — forums where his staff is somewhat able to control who asks questions or whether journalists are allowed to ask follow-up queries.
The governor has defied calls for his resignation from many of New York's most influential Democrats, including from most members of the state's congressional delegation. A majority of state lawmakers have also said he should quit.
Cuomo has urged the public to await the results of investigations being conducted by Attorney General Letitia James and the state Assembly's judiciary committee, which is exploring whether there are grounds to impeach him.
Attorney Debra Katz, who represents one of Cuomo's accusers, Charlotte Bennett, criticized the governor after the press conference, Fox News reported. Katz said Cuomo "continued his effort to actively undermine the Attorney General's independent investigation into his sexual harassment of my client, Charlotte Bennett, and numerous other women."
"Cuomo's efforts to undermine this investigation are part of a broader effort to evade accountability for his actions, and members of the NY State Assembly must be prepared to accept the Attorney General's findings when the appointed investigators conclude their work and include them as part of their impeachment proceedings," Katz wrote.
"At least nine women have come forward who have credibly accused him of unwelcome advances, unwelcome touching, and/or aggressive groping. This behavior is unequivocally wrong and unlawful," she added.
The Associated Press contributed.
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