Politics

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo strongly denies sexual harassment claims

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Key Points
  • Embattled New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday strongly denied claims in a bombshell report by the state Attorney General's Office, which found that he had sexually harassed at least 11 women and oversaw a "toxic culture" of fear and intimidation in his office.
  • Cuomo has refused calls to resign.
  • Earlier Tuesday, Attorney General Letitia James and investigators detailed the scathing findings in the report.
VIDEO14:0814:08
N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo responds to charges he harassed multiple women, created toxic work environment

Embattled New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday strongly denied claims in a bombshell report by the state Attorney General's Office, which found that he had sexually harassed at least 11 women and oversaw a "toxic culture" of fear and intimidation in his office.

"I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances," Cuomo said.

"I am 63 years old. I've lived my entire adult life in public view. That is just not who I am."

Cuomo said his lawyer Rita Glavin prepared a point-by-point rebuttal to the findings of the scathing report overseen by Attorney General Letitia James after an investigation in which he was questioned for 11 hours.

"The facts are much different than what has been portrayed," the governor said. "Read the facts and decide for yourself."

He flatly denied an allegation that he groped a woman in the office of his home in Albany after summoning her to the governor's mansion.

VIDEO8:3608:36
Cuomo told her he was lonely, and wanted to be touched: Attorney Anne Clark

"That never happened," Cuomo said.

The Democratic governor also accused investigators of bias and implied that the probe was infected by politics.

"Politics and bias are interwoven throughout every aspect of this investigation," Cuomo said. "One would be naive to think otherwise, and New Yorkers are not naive."

But Cuomo also said that he understood that he had behaved toward some women in a way that made them feel uncomfortable. In one case, he noted, The New York Times had run a photo on its front page of him holding a woman's face as she grimaced.

That woman took offense at his gesture, which Cuomo claimed was "meant to convey warmth, nothing more."

"For that, I apologize," said Cuomo. "I now understand that there are generational or cultural perspectives that frankly I hadn't fully appreciated, and I have learned from this."

That 85-page rebuttal by Cuomo's lawyer bizarrely contained eight pages with photos of the governor hugging various people, and another 15 showing hugging involving political figures including President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, and Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and U.S. senator from New York.

VIDEO1:2001:20
N.Y. AG James: Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women

Glavin, in that rebuttal, said, "Regrettably, as the findings in the Report show, the investigators have directed an utterly biased investigation and willfully ignored evidence inconsistent with the narrative they have sought to weave from the outset."

"In coming to their conclusion, they ignored the Governor's testimony and substantial corroborating evidence, and were not candid about that fact at a press conference during which they announced their findings," Glavin said. "We have just received and are viewing the Report and will supplement this statement. But even on a quick first review, it is clear that the Report purposefully omits key evidence."

Earlier Tuesday, James and investigators detailed conclusions of the report, which immediately reignited calls for Cuomo to resign.

The report said Cuomo had harassed women who worked in and out of state government, including a state trooper who was assigned to his personal security detail.

James is also a Democrat and has been mentioned as a possible candidate for governor, whether or not Cuomo resigns or seeks re-election next year.

Cuomo opened his response Tuesday by saying, "It has been a hard and painful period for me and my family."

The governor said that in response to accusations against him, "I've brought in an expert to design new sexual harassment policy and procedures."

He took no questions from reporters after responding to the report in a statement that was livestreamed by his office.

The report Tuesday noted that Cuomo had "made specific denials of conduct that the complainants recalled clearly."

"We found his denials to lack credibility and to be inconsistent with the weight of the evidence obtained during our investigation," the report concluded.

"We also found the Governor's denials and explanations around specific allegations to be contrived."

Mariann Wang, a lawyer for two of Cuomo's accusers, in a statement called the governor's response to James' report "laughable."

"He is being manipulative, as he always has been," Wang said. "He is not being accused of being a kindly but gentlemanly boss. And the women who experience his unwanted sexual touching are not fools, as he apparently thinks they are."

"He is found by independent investigators to have touched women in their intimate body parts and routinely demeaned the women who work with him by treating them as sexual objects," Wang said.

"He touched a woman's breast, another woman's stomach and the back of her neck and spine, he grabbed multiple women's backsides or buttocks. These are not charming expressions of affection. They were sexual. He knew that when he did it, and the women experienced this as unwanted sexual touching. He's been found to have been doing this for years."

— CNBC's Christina Wilkie and Thomas Franck contributed to this report.