Another former aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Saturday accused him of sexual harassment. This is the third aide and fifth allegation made against the New York governor.
Ana Liss, a former policy and operations aide between 2013 and 2015, told the Wall Street Journal that Cuomo frequently made inappropriate and unwanted gestures towards her. Many of those allegedly took place at her desk at the state capitol.
Cuomo allegedly asked personal questions, like if she had a boyfriend, repeatedly called her sweetheart, and, at one point, kissed her hand when she got up from her desk.
The former aide said the actions, which she initially thought of as harmless flirting, "diminished her from an educated professional to 'just a skirt.'"
“It’s not appropriate, really, in any setting,” Liss told the WSJ.
Liss said she never made any formal complaints against the governor but instead decided to ask for a transfer to another office, which was granted.
There was one incident in particular that Liss recalls (via WSJ):
Ms. Liss recalled working at a May 6, 2014, reception at the Executive Mansion in Albany, which is Mr. Cuomo’s official residence. Mr. Cuomo was in a living room on the north side of the mansion’s first floor and noticed Ms. Liss, she recalled.
“He came right over to me and he was like, ‘Hey, Sweetheart!’” she said.
She said the governor hugged her, kissed her on both cheeks and then wrapped his arm around her lower back and grabbed her waist. They turned to a photographer, who took a picture that shows Mr. Cuomo’s hand around her waist.
Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Cuomo, said the governor's picture with Liss is nothing out of the ordinary.
“Reporters and photographers have covered the governor for 14 years watching him kiss men and women and posing for pictures. At the public open-house mansion reception, there are hundreds of people, and he poses for hundreds of pictures. That’s what people in politics do," Azzopardi said.
Liss said in 2014 she began drinking excessively, which prompted her to seek counseling for her mental health. In 2015, she left the post to take a position at Cornell University.
Others who were part of the Empire State Fellowship program, the same program that prompted Liss to receive the job in the Cuomo administration, noticed a shift in the aide. They noticed Liss was "drinking heavily and skipping social engagements when she worked for the governor."
Liss and the two other former aides who have come forward said Cuomo frequently asked about their personal lives, including who they were dating. The governor allegedly remarked on their physical appearance and touched them.
The three women said "longtime staffers" instructed them to "wear high heels when the governor was in Albany."
Cuomo and his office have repeatedly downplayed the allegations, saying the actions the governor took were part of his demeanor.
“I understand that sensitivities have changed and behavior has changed, and I get it. And I’m going to learn from it,” the governor said last week during a public appearance.