Charlotte Bennett, a 25-year-old former aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo who accused him of sexual harassment, said during a televised interview Thursday night that she believed the 63-year-old governor propositioned her for sex during a workplace meeting.
“Without explicitly saying it, he implied to me that I was old enough for him and he was lonely,” the 25-year-old former Cuomo aide told Norah O’Donnell of “CBS Evening News“.
She said the governor, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, felt emboldened as his national profile rose amid his daily televised outbreak updates.
“I think he felt like he was untouchable in a lot of ways,” she told O’Donnell.
Bennett has alleged that the governor called her into his office on June 5 and told her he was lonely and looking for a girlfriend.
In parts of the interview, she reiterated claims she made when she came forward with her accusations to the New York Times earlier in the week. She accused the governor of asking her if age difference mattered and said he told her he was “fine” with anyone over 22 years old. Bennett is 25. The incident happened over the summer.
“I thought, he’s trying to sleep with me, the governor is trying to sleep with me,” she told O’Donnell. “And I am deeply uncomfortable, and I have to get out of this room as soon as possible.”
She also ripped into the governor’s attempt at a public apology, made as reporters grilled him during his first news conference in more than a week Wednesday.
“It’s not an apology,” Bennett said. “It’s not an issue of my feelings. It’s an issue of his actions. The fact is he was sexually harassing me and he has not apologized for sexually harassing me. And he can’t even use my name.”
Bennett, who said she had told the governor she was a sexual assault survivor, accused him of harping on that aspect of her background.
“He asked if I had trouble enjoying being with someone because of my trauma,” she said during the interview. “The governor asked me if I was sensitive to intimacy …during the workday.”
He was her boss, O’Donnell noted.
She said that due to the governor’s position, she felt like she didn’t have a choice and had trouble escaping the conversation.
“When I was even thinking of coming forward, I think that was when I had the most shame,” she said. “I really was uncomfortable. … I feel like people put the onus on the woman to shut that conversation down, and by answering I was somehow engaging in that or enabling it. … It didn’t feel like I had a choice.”
During a news conference Wednesday, his first since three women came forward with allegations against him, Cuomo apologized, denied knowing that he was acting inappropriately and said he has “learned an important lesson.”
Another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, accused the governor of forcibly kissing her in an essay published on Medium last week. And a third woman with no professional ties to the governor, Anna Ruch, accused Cuomo of making unwanted advances, touching her exposed lower back and asking to kiss her.
Debra Katz, an attorney for Bennett, said afterward the governor’s remarks were “full of falsehoods and inaccurate information.”
“The governor repeatedly said he had no idea he made anyone uncomfortable,” Katz said. “My client, Charlotte Bennett, reported his sexually harassing behavior immediately to his chief of staff and chief counsel. We are confident that they made him aware of her complaint.”
In addition to the sexual misconduct claims and accusations of bullying from lawmakers and journalists, Cuomo is also facing a federal probe into his role in a coronavirus outbreak in New York’s nursing homes that has left more than 15,000 patients dead.
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