Cuomo Aide Says Governor ‘Groomed’ Her for Months Before Groping
A woman who has accused Gov. Andrew Cuomo of groping her in the Executive Mansion said that she warned him, “You’re going to get us in trouble.”,
ALBANY, N.Y. — A woman who has accused Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of groping her in the Executive Mansion gave a fuller account in a published report on Wednesday, detailing how she believed the governor had groomed her for months with a series of tight hugs and sexually suggestive comments.
She said in an interview with The Times Union of Albany that Mr. Cuomo asked questions about her marriage, recalling that at one point last year, the governor told her, “Oh, if you were single, the things that I would do to you.”
The groping incident followed later in 2020, said the woman, an administrative assistant who still works at the Capitol and who spoke on the condition of anonymity. In late November, she said the governor summoned her to his second-floor office at the Executive Mansion. The woman told The Times Union that Mr. Cuomo closed the door and reached under her blouse.
“He pulled me close, and all I remember is seeing his hand, his big hand,” the woman said in the interview. Moments later, the governor grasped one of her breasts over her bra, leaving her “so confused and so taken aback.”
She told The Times Union that she had told the governor, “‘You’re going to get us in trouble,'” because she didn’t know “what else to say.”
“It was pretty much like ‘What are you doing?'” she said, adding, “He said, ‘I don’t care.'”
Several current and former employees have lodged sexual harassment allegations against Mr. Cuomo in recent months, and other women have come forward with accounts of uncomfortable interactions with the governor.
The alleged groping in the Governor’s Mansion was the most sexually aggressive allegation, and it was forwarded to the state attorney general, Letitia James, who is overseeing an inquiry into sexual harassment claims against the governor.
In a text exchange with The New York Times on Wednesday, the woman confirmed the details that she told the Times Union, as well as the fact that she had spoken to investigators deputized by Ms. James.
She is one of several accusers who have been interviewed by the attorney general’s investigators led by Joon H. Kim, a former acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Anne L. Clark, a well-regarded employment discrimination lawyer.
A separate State Assembly investigation is also underway, with a broader mandate which also includes looking at the governor’s handling of the state’s nursing homes, where more than 15,000 people died during the pandemic. Both investigations are scheduled to take months to complete.
Many of the state’s Democratic leaders have now asked Mr. Cuomo to resign, with some of those calls following the groping allegation.
The woman said that after the governor had groped her, she told him that he was “crazy,” a comment that she said seemed to hurt his ego.
“He turned around and walked back to his desk. He didn’t say anything. I walked myself out to the front door and nothing was said,” the woman told The Times Union. “It was almost like I felt like a piece of garbage to him. I felt degraded.”
The governor, a third-term Democrat, has repeatedly denied touching anybody inappropriately and pleaded with New Yorkers to await the outcome of investigations into his behavior before passing judgment. On Wednesday, his personal lawyer, Rita Glavin, reiterated those points, saying that “the people of New York know the governor” and noting his “40 years in public service and in the public eye.”
“The attorney general’s review of this claim and others, including evolving details and new public statements by complainants or their surrogates, must be thorough, fair and provide the truth,” Ms. Glavin said.
In her interview with the Times Union, the woman said that she believed that Mr. Cuomo was attempting to groom her for a sexual relationship through a gradual escalation of comments and contact.
“Sometimes he would pull my whole body close to him. I remember purposely, like, taking my pelvis and pulling away,” she told The Times Union, adding, “I knew what he was doing.”
At another point in 2020, the woman said the governor asked if she would “do anything with anyone else.” When she responded no, she said the governor said: “I’m single and ready to mingle.”
The governor broke up with his longtime girlfriend, the celebrity chef Sandra Lee, in September 2019.
Some elements of the woman’s account comport with an on-the-record interview by Alyssa McGrath, who told The Times in March that she too had been sexually harassed by Mr. Cuomo. Ms. McGrath, 33, told The Times that a woman had told her about a groping incident and that she and the woman — whom she described as a friend — would frequently be called on to work with Mr. Cuomo at the mansion.
Ms. McGrath also told The Times she had been sent a text message of a photograph of the governor and the woman on New Year’s Eve 2019, sitting close together, their faces side by side — an episode that The Times Union referenced on Wednesday. The governor asked the woman to send the photo to Ms. McGrath, Ms. McGrath has told The Times.
While the woman was taking the photo of herself and the governor, he rubbed her buttock, she told The Times Union. “That was the first blatant move,” she said.
Ms. McGrath told The Times that the governor had told the woman not to talk about the groping incident, an allegation also suggested by The Times Union report. According to the interview, the unidentified woman said that Mr. Cuomo had brought up the incident late last year after she took dictation at his Capitol office.
“Near the end of it, he looked up at me and he said, ‘You know, by the way, you know people talk in the office, and you can never tell anyone about anything we talk about or, you know, anything, right?'” the woman told The Times Union. “I said, ‘I understand.’ He said, ‘Well, you know, I could get in big trouble, you know that.’ I said, ‘I understand, governor.’ And he said, ‘OK.'”
On Wednesday, Mariann Wang, a lawyer for Ms. McGrath, said the Times Union report was “consistent with my client’s observations and experience working for the governor.”
“The governor’s behavior is that of a classic bully and predator: Groom, manipulate, slowly move the boundaries, then threaten and punish if anyone dares push back,” Ms. Wang said.
The sexual harassment scandal engulfing Mr. Cuomo began in late February with the accounts of two former employees, Lindsey Boylan, a former economic development official, and Charlotte Bennett, an executive assistant and senior briefer. Among other allegations, Ms. Boylan said that the governor kissed her in his Manhattan office in 2018, something Mr. Cuomo stridently denied.
Days after Ms. Boylan posted specifics of her allegations in a post on Medium, Ms. Bennett told The Times that Mr. Cuomo had peppered her with questions about her sex life and willingness to sleep with older men during a meeting in his Capitol office last June.
In a statement released shortly after Ms. Bennett’s account was published, the governor acknowledged that he sometimes had made comments that “may have been insensitive or too personal,” adding that such comments may “have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.”
The unidentified woman described an intense period since news of her groping allegations arose in early March, saying she had lost weight even as she has continued to work in the State Capitol. She had not previously spoken to the media and did not file a formal complaint at work.
She said she had been worried about her job security, as she has a small child.
“If I told someone, I’m done,” she said. “And who do you tell?”