New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Sunday backpedaled a decision to appoint a former federal judge to investigate sexual harassment allegations made against him. This is the second sexual harassment claim against Cuomo to arise.
Charlotte Bennett, 25, claims the governor harassed her while the two were alone in his office. He allegedly asked inappropriate questions, like whether she was monogamous in her relationships and willing to have sex with older men.
Originally, Cuomo tapped former U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones to conduct the investigation. Jones was reportedly a former law partner of one of Cuomo's closest advisers. He reversed his decision after criticism, particularly from members of his own party.
This is no joke. There must be an independent investigation into these allegations.— Kathleen Rice (@RepKathleenRice) February 28, 2021
The accused CANNOT appoint the investigator. PERIOD. https://t.co/a7AcScvV9f
My statement on the allegations of sexual harassment by Governor Cuomo: pic.twitter.com/3aIniWFzJ0— Rep. Nadler (@RepJerryNadler) February 28, 2021
Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett’s detailed accounts of sexual harassment by Gov. Cuomo are extremely serious and painful to read.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 28, 2021
There must be an independent investigation - not one led by an individual selected by the Governor, but by the office of the Attorney General.
.@NYGovCuomo, you are a monster, and it is time for you to go. Now.— Alessandra Biaggi (@Biaggi4NY) February 27, 2021
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also said the Biden administration supports an independent investigation into the matter.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on the sexual assault allegations against NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo: "There should be an independent review of these allegations. They're serious. ... That's something we all support and the President supports" #CNNSOTU https://t.co/CxHK6Kgx7f pic.twitter.com/pPoDl1xhQ6— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) February 28, 2021
According to the New York Times, Cuomo will now ask New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) and New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore to conduct the investigation.
Beth Garvey, special counsel and senior advisor to Gov. Cuomo, released the following statement about the decision to change course:
"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.
"Accordingly we have asked the Attorney General of New York State and the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals to jointly select an independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation to conduct a thorough review of the matter and issue a public report. The work product will be solely controlled by that independent lawyer personally selected by the Attorney General and Chief Judge.
All members of the Governor's office will cooperate fully. We will have no further comment until the report is issued."