Politics Just hours after Cuomo referred himself for an investigation
A third woman, Anna Ruch, has accused the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of unwanted advances further fuelling escalating sexual harassment allegations from two former aides.
Anna Ruch, 33 told The New York Times on Monday that she met Cuomo at a wedding in New York in September 2019. During the reception, she said that Cuomo put his hands on her bare lower back, which she pushed away and asked if he could kiss her. The Times published a photo of the two together at a wedding reception in which Cuomo appears to be placing his hands around Ruch’s neck.
This only a couple of days after a former staffer accused the governor of sexual harassment.
In a series of interviews with the New York Times Charlotte Bennett, who was 24 when she began working in an entry-level position for the governor, described a pattern of advances where Cuomo asked her questions about her sex life, whether she was monogamous and if she had ever had sex with older men.
After learning in 2020 that Bennett’s 25th birthday was coming up, Cuomo offered that he was open to sexual relationships with women over the age of 22. The implications were not ambiguous. “I understand that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett told the Times. “And was wondering how to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”
In a text to a friend, according to the New York Times, Bennett described an unsettling encounter with the governor in which he brought up her past experience of assault.
“The way he kept repeating, ‘You were raped and abused and attacked and assaulted and betrayed,’ over and over again while looking me directly in the eyes was something out of a horror movie,” Bennett wrote.
“It was like he was testing me.” As a result of the governor’s harassment, Bennett left the briefer role and eventually left the administration altogether in November.
Three days before Bennett’s accusations another former staffer, Lindsey Boylan, published an essay outlining the inappropriate sexual advances by the governor, some of which she writes were assisted by his staff.
Over her several years working as a special assistant to Cuomo, Boylan says she frequently received sexual comments and invitations from the governor.
Boylan describes how Cuomo would go out of his way to touch her on her legs and lower back and would comment and ridicule female staffers’ about their weight and sexual relationships. A pattern that Bennet also describes in her interviews. Cuomo had his aids email her to tell her at Cuomo’s request that the governor thought she looked like a woman rumoured to be Cuomo’s ex-girlfriend.
“He said: look up Lisa Shields,” the Cuomo aide, Stephanie Benton, wrote to Boylan. “You could be sisters. Except you’re the better-looking sister.”
Here, too, the governor’s suggestion was not subtle.
Boylan says that Cuomo had a body man call her one evening in December 2016 and summon her to the governor’s Albany office.
They were alone there, and she was afraid. He let her go, but on another occasion, at the governor’s New York City office on Third Avenue, he got her alone again, and Boylan says he kissed her as she tried to leave. She fled. Boylan eventually left the Cuomo administration, quitting in September 2018.
In light of the first two accusations, Cuomo said he was “truly sorry” if his conduct had ever been “misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation” as he faced mounting pressure over the scandal.
He has denied ever inappropriately touching or propositioning anyone.
On Sunday, the 63-year-old bowed to pressure to grant an independent investigation.