Updated: February 28, 2021 12:13 PM
Created: February 27, 2021 07:15 PM
ALBANY, N.Y. (WHEC) — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has released a statement Saturday denying a new allegation of sexual harassment while requesting an independent review into the matter.
The statement came less than a half-hour after the New York Times posted a story on its website detailing allegations by 25-year-old former aide Charlotte Bennett, who had been an executive assistant and health policy adviser to the administration until last November. The allegations include claims that the governor asked her about her sex life as well as other questions of a personal nature.
In an interview with News10NBC's Brett Davidsen Friday, NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd said New York Democrats had been walking on eggshells following Wednesday's sexual harassment allegations against Governor Cuomo.
"I do think that this is a, pretty much a big challenge here for New York Democrats in general," said Todd. "I think that that's why there's been this sort of waiting for another shoe to drop."
Now, state leaders are speaking out.
"I'm glad that we are creating a setting where victims feel they can come forward in New York," said New York Senator Jeremy Cooney. "Because this type of behavior will not be tolerated in the state."
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul released a short statement saying in full: "Everyone deserves to have their voice heard and taken seriously. I support an independent review."
Buffalo-area Republican Senator Rob Ortt called the allegations "incredibly disturbing," and said he would be "convening members of the Senate Republican Conference [Sunday] morning to discuss these egregious allegations."
Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay said "the response must be clear and decisive. A thorough investigation, conducted by an entity completely outside the governor's reach, must begin immediately."
Monroe County's most notable federal representative, Congressman Joe Morelle, also commented, posting the following on Twitter:
We have a responsibility to take all accusations seriously, which is why I support a thorough and independent review. https://t.co/bHnXql2EJr— Joe Morelle (@RepJoeMorelle) February 28, 2021
Gov. Cuomo and other state leaders are calling for an outside investigation into the allegations. Cuomo says he will not have further comments until the review is over.
The governor's full statement is below:
"Ms. Bennett was a hardworking and valued member of our team during COVID. She has every right to speak out.
"When she came to me and opened up about being a sexual assault survivor and how it shaped her and her ongoing efforts to create an organization that empowered her voice to help other survivors, I tried to be supportive and helpful. Ms. Bennett's initial impression was right: I was trying to be a mentor to her. I never made advances toward Ms. Bennett nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate. The last thing I would ever have wanted was to make her feel any of the things that are being reported.
"This situation cannot and should not be resolved in the press; I believe the best way to get to the truth is through a full and thorough outside review and I am directing all state employees to comply with that effort. I ask all New Yorkers to await the findings of the review so that they know the facts before making any judgements. I will have no further comment until the review has concluded."
In a separate statement, Special Counsel and Senior Advisor to the Governor Beth Garvey said that former Federal Judge Barbara Jones will lead the review.
"The Governor's Office wants a review of the sexual harassment claims made against the Governor to be done in a manner beyond reproach. We had selected former Federal Judge Barbara Jones, with a stellar record for qualifications and integrity, but we want to avoid even the perception of a lack of independence or inference of politics."
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