New York governor’s ex-aide accuses him of sexual harassment; second such allegation towards official
The ex-aide instructed The New York Occasions that the governor had harassed her late final spring, throughout the peak of the state’s battle towards the coronavirus
A second former aide to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is accusing him of sexual harassment, saying that he requested her questions on her intercourse life, whether or not she was monogamous in her relationships and if she had ever had intercourse with older males.
The aide, Charlotte Bennett, who was an govt assistant and well being coverage adviser within the Cuomo administration till she left in November, instructed The New York Occasions that the governor had harassed her late final spring, throughout the peak of the state’s battle towards the coronavirus .
Bennett, 25, stated probably the most unsettling episode occurred 5 June, when she was alone with Cuomo in his state Capitol workplace. In a sequence of interviews this week, she stated the governor had requested her quite a few questions on her private life, together with whether or not she thought age made a distinction in romantic relationships, and had stated that he was open to relationships with girls of their 20s — feedback she interpreted as clear overtures to a sexual relationship.
Cuomo stated in a press release to the Occasions on Saturday that he believed he had been appearing as a mentor and had “by no means made advances towards Ms. Bennett, nor did I ever intend to behave in any method that was inappropriate.” He stated he had requested an impartial evaluate of the matter and requested that New Yorkers await the findings “earlier than making any judgments.”
Bennett stated that throughout the June encounter, the governor, 63, additionally complained to her about being lonely throughout the pandemic, mentioning that he “can’t even hug anybody” earlier than turning the main focus to Bennett. She stated that Cuomo requested her, “Who did I final hug?”
Bennett stated she had tried to dodge the query by responding that she missed hugging her dad and mom. “And he was, like, ‘No, I imply like actually hugged someone?’” she stated.
Cuomo by no means tried to the touch her, Bennett stated, however the message of all the episode was unmistakable to her.
“I understood that the governor needed to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett stated. “And was questioning how I used to be going to get out of it and assumed it was the top of my job.”
Bennett stated she had disclosed the interplay with Cuomo to his chief of employees, Jill DesRosiers, lower than per week later and was transferred to a different job, as a well being coverage adviser, with an workplace on the alternative aspect of the Capitol, quickly after that. Bennett stated she had additionally given a prolonged assertion to a particular counsel to the governor, Judith Mogul, towards the top of June.
Bennett stated she finally determined to not insist on an investigation as a result of she was blissful in her new job and “needed to maneuver on.” No motion was taken towards the governor.
In his assertion, Cuomo known as Bennett a “hardworking and valued member” of his employees with “each proper to talk out.” He stated that Bennett had opened as much as him about being a sexual assault survivor, and he had tried to be supportive and useful. “The very last thing I might ever have needed was to make her really feel any of the issues which might be being reported,” the governor stated.
The governor didn’t deny that he requested Bennett private questions; he stated within the assertion that he would haven’t any additional remark till the evaluate concluded.
Bennett’s account follows one other detailed accusation, revealed Wednesday, by Lindsey Boylan, a former state financial improvement official who stated that Cuomo had harassed her on a number of events from 2016 to 2018, at one level giving her an unsolicited kiss on the lips at his Manhattan workplace.
Cuomo’s workplace has known as Boylan’s accusations unfaithful, however they’ve nonetheless prompted requires investigations into her claims. Along with the 2 girls’s harassment allegations, the governor, a third-term Democrat, is confronting vital political fallout over his dealing with of the state’s nursing properties throughout the pandemic.
After seeing Boylan element her accusations towards Cuomo, Bennett shared Boylan’s account on Twitter, suggesting that individuals learn it in the event that they needed a real image of “what it’s wish to work for the Cuomo” administration.
The Occasions contacted Bennett, and she or he agreed to narrate her personal account of harassment. She stated she felt an obligation to different victims of sexual harassment and needed to counter the best way Cuomo “wields his energy.”
Bennett stated she had instructed her dad and mom and pals in regards to the alternate with the governor across the time that it occurred, in addition to about her rising discomfort with having to work carefully with him, and had saved textual content messages from that interval.
The Occasions reviewed the messages and confirmed their contents with those that acquired them. Bennett additionally retained textual content messages from DesRosiers and Mogul that alluded to their conferences in June however didn’t point out the subject material.
“I’ve no downside with what they did,” Bennett stated of DesRosiers and Mogul, describing each girls as sympathetic to her issues. “I’ve an issue with what the governor did.”
Bennett was employed by the administration in early 2019, figuring out of the governor’s Manhattan workplace as a briefer, an entry-level place. She had graduated from Hamilton School in 2017, the place she was energetic in girls’s points and based a sexual misconduct process drive. She stated her personal expertise in surviving a sexual assault had prompted her to “assist sexual assault survivors be heard and implement victims’ rights,” in accordance with a bulletin on the school’s web site.
By mid-2019, Bennett had been promoted to senior briefer and govt assistant after an interview with Cuomo. The 2 grew to become pleasant, she stated, they usually bonded over shared connections with Westchester County: On the time, he was residing with Sandra Lee, a star chef, in Mount Kisco; Bennett was residing together with her dad and mom in a neighboring hamlet. She talked about to Cuomo that she had performed middle-school soccer towards certainly one of his daughters, who’re additionally of their mid-20s.
“We received alongside very well,” she stated of the governor. Cuomo, she stated, would typically ask questions on her courting life that she stated appeared inappropriate however not essentially unmanageable.
“I noticed him extra as a father determine,” she stated. “I wasn’t fascinated about it as something sexual.”
In January 2020, Bennett despatched her mom a textual content. “Had a very lengthy convo with Gov at the moment,” she wrote, outlining a two-hour dialog about quite a few subjects, together with her profession targets.
“He had loads to say and was very emotional and critical but in addition requested plenty of questions,” she wrote, including, “He received emotional. Not me.”
Bennett’s mom, Jessica, confirmed the textual content, and her feeling, on the time, that it was reassuring that the governor gave the impression to be taking up the function of a mentor.
Charlotte Bennett stated she was requested in late March to start working in Albany as a part of the state’s COVID-19 response effort. Two months later, in mid-Might, the governor’s notion of their relationship seemingly started to vary, she stated.
On Might 15, she stated she arrived on the Capitol round 7 a.m. to seek out Cuomo already at work. Bennett was there to drop off some briefing papers, however Cuomo was chatty, asking about her love life and, in a gossipy method, whether or not she was concerned with different members of the governor’s employees. She memorialized the alternate in a number of texts to a different Cuomo employees member that the Occasions reviewed.
Bennett stated she had talked about a speech she was scheduled to present to Hamilton college students about her expertise as a survivor of sexual assault. She stated she had been bowled over by Cuomo’s seeming fixation on that aspect of her life expertise.
“The way in which he was repeating, ‘You have been raped and abused and attacked and assaulted and betrayed,’ time and again whereas trying me immediately within the eyes was one thing out of a horror film,” she wrote in a second textual content to her pal. “It was like he was testing me.”
On reflection, Bennett stated, she considered the 15 Might assembly “because the turning level in our relationship.”
“Something earlier than it I now see in another way,” she stated. “I now perceive that as grooming.”
Three weeks later, Bennett stated, she was summoned to Cuomo’s second-floor workplace and was requested to take dictation with one other aide.
After the second aide left, Cuomo and Bennett continued their work. After they completed, she stated, he requested her to show off her recorder, and he started a winding dialog that touched on the Black Lives Matter protests and his every day information conferences.
However, Bennett stated, the governor additionally began to ask questions on her private life, together with whether or not she was romantically concerned, whether or not she was monogamous in her relationships and whether or not she had ever had intercourse with older males.
A sequence of textual content exchanges with a feminine pal from that afternoon, 5 June, comported with Bennett’s recounting of the story this week. Within the texts, she instructed her pal that she was shaken and upset by the episode and fearful about even writing it down.
“One thing simply occurred and I can’t even kind it out or put it in a video,” Bennett wrote.
Bennett went on to say to her pal, who confirmed the texts’ content material and validity however requested to not be recognized for worry of retribution, that she and the governor had simply spoken “about age variations in relationships.”
When her pal requested whether or not Cuomo had accomplished something bodily to Bennett, she responded, “No nevertheless it was like probably the most specific it could possibly be.”
The following day, the ladies continued to debate the episode through textual content. Bennett wrote that the governor had requested her whether or not she was having intercourse with different folks “whereas in my current relationships.”
Within the interview, Bennett stated Cuomo instructed her he was lonely, significantly because the finish of his relationship with Lee in 2019. He stated Lee was “out of the image,” in accordance with Bennett, including that he referred to “wanting a girlfriend, ideally within the Albany space.”
Bennett, who had simply turned 25 on the time, stated Cuomo had additionally requested about her emotions about age variations in relationships, saying “age doesn’t matter,” in accordance with a textual content she despatched to her pal.
“He requested me if I believed if age made a distinction in relationships, and he additionally requested me in the identical dialog if I had ever been with an older man,” Bennett reiterated in an interview with the Occasions.
At one juncture, Bennett stated, the governor additionally famous that he felt “he’s wonderful with anybody above the age of twenty-two,” some extent that got here up after they mentioned her speech at Hamilton on what was her twenty fifth birthday.
Requested if she felt Cuomo’s questions and feedback have been an entreaty to a sexual relationship, Bennett stated, “That’s completely the way it felt.”
Bennett stated that she had felt deeply uncomfortable with Cuomo’s feedback and had tried to shift the dialog into extra impartial territory — one thing “not about my intercourse life,” she recalled — like mental theories about monogamy and energy dynamics, and even a tattoo she was contemplating getting.
She stated Cuomo had prompt that maybe she ought to put the tattoo on her buttocks so folks wouldn’t see it when she wore a costume.
A pal of Bennett’s, a former Cuomo administration official, stated he had spoken to her shortly after the June 5 episode. He confirmed the contours of her account, saying that she had made it clear to him that she believed the governor needed to have intercourse together with her.
Bennett instructed her dad and mom in regards to the encounter inside days, her mom recalled, saying her daughter had made a particular go to residence to take action. “She was clearly upset,” Bennett’s mom stated.
Bennett stated she spoke to Cuomo’s chief of employees, DesRosiers, on June 10, 5 days after the episode.
She stated the assembly, in DesRosiers’ workplace, had lasted about 10 minutes. Bennett stated she had recounted her interplay with Cuomo, and she or he recalled that DesRosiers had requested a number of questions, been apologetic and requested to talk to her once more in two days.
In a textual content message despatched to a pal after the assembly, Bennett stated DesRosiers had stated, “How can we do that?” asking whether or not she needed to remain within the govt department or transfer to a different a part of the state authorities.
When Bennett’s pal requested what that meant, Bennett defined that an outdoor job would nonetheless be with the administration, however “simply not interacting with him.”
She additionally instructed her pal, in the identical sequence of texts, that she trusted DesRosiers however was fearful about Cuomo’s response: “I simply stated I didn’t need him to seek out out and get mad.”
Two days later, on June 12, DesRosiers instructed Bennett she can be transferred to a brand new place as a well being coverage adviser, nonetheless working within the govt department, however in a unique a part of the Capitol. Her new job was introduced in a June 17 electronic mail to Division of Well being officers. “Welcome Charlotte!” it concluded.
Later that month, Bennett met with Mogul, a particular counsel to the governor, and repeated her claims. She stated, nevertheless, that she quickly determined to “let this go and transfer on.”
In a press release Saturday, Beth Garvey, one other particular counsel to the governor, stated that “Ms. Bennett’s issues have been handled with sensitivity and respect and in accordance with relevant legislation and coverage.” She characterised the switch to a well being coverage place as fulfilling “a long-standing curiosity” of Bennett’s.
Of Bennett, Garvey stated, “she was consulted relating to the decision and expressed satisfaction and appreciation for the best way during which it was dealt with.” Barbara Jones, a former federal choose in Manhattan, will lead the surface evaluate into the matter, Garvey stated.
Bennett left state authorities final fall, and she or he now lives and works in a neighboring state. She stated that her anger about what had occurred had continued to percolate and had led to her departure.
“His presence was suffocating,” she stated. “I used to be considering that I might get well and have distance, however that’s so naive.”
She added that she had been dedicated to her job within the administration, even after her interactions with Cuomo, and had tried to “not have him wreck this for me.”
However, she stated, “I discovered that’s not how that works.”
Jesse McKinley c.2021 The New York Occasions Firm
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