BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A former aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo who accused him of sexual harassment in a New York Times article over the weekend has responded to the governor’s apology released Sunday, saying that the governor has “refused to acknowledge or take responsibility for his predatory behavior”.
Charlotte Bennett released the following statement on Monday:
The Governor has refused to acknowledge or take responsibility for his predatory behavior. As we know, abusers – particularly those with tremendous amounts of power – are often repeat offenders who engage in manipulative tactics to diminish allegations, blame victims, deny wrongdoing and escape consequences. It took the Governor 24 hours and significant backlash to allow for a truly independent investigation. These are not the actions of someone who simply feels misunderstood; they are the actions of an individual who wields his power to avoid justice.
“In a clear effort to perform a sensitivity that he simply does not possess, the Governor has implied that he wants his supporters to stand down and respect my decision to speak out. In coming forward I fully expected to be attacked by those who reflexively question the honesty or motivation of those who report sexual harassment. I am not deterred by these voices. Instead, I have focused on the overwhelming love and support I have received from friends and strangers alike. Thank you for holding space for me and lifting me up in what has been one of the most vulnerable moments of my life.
“Coming forward was an excruciating decision. I decided to share my story because I had faith that I would be supported and believed. This is often not the case. Sharing my experience was only possible because of past survivors who stood up and told their stories. I hope that my story helps other survivors feel like they can stand in their truth.
“To survivors reading this: I believe you. I see you. I hear you. Your story is valid, your pain is real and your anger is justified. I am sending you my love, support and solidarity. You are carrying an unbelievable burden — one that takes time and energy to untangle. Each journey, including my own, is a long and winding one. No two are the same. That said, I believe we can empower each other. For anyone who needs to hear this, know I am holding space for you, too.
“To the Governor’s survivors: I am here. Lindsey is here. You do not have to say a single word. But if you choose to speak your truth, we will be standing with you. I promise.”
Bennett’s lawyer, Debra Katz, released this statement:
“Ms. Bennett will cooperate fully with the Attorney General’s investigation. We are confident that no disinterested investigator who reviews this evidence would adopt the Governor’s self-serving characterization of his behavior as mentorship or, at worst, unwanted flirtation. He was not acting as a mentor and his remarks were not misunderstood by Ms. Bennett. He was abusing his power over her for sex. This is textbook sexual harassment.
“If, as the Governor now acknowledges, he talked to young women who worked for his administration in this manner, the problem is a systemic one and the Attorney General must investigate whether other women were subjected to a sexually hostile work environment. It is also critical for the Attorney General to determine if anyone in the Cuomo Administration enabled his behavior. We call on the Attorney General to investigate the failure of Governor Cuomo’s chief of staff and special counsel to fully investigate Ms. Bennett’s allegation. They had a clear legal obligation to do so.”
Sunday the governor released the following statement:
Questions have been raised about some of my past interactions with people in the office.
I never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm. I spend most of my life at work and colleagues are often also personal friends.
At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I do, on occasion, tease people in what I think is a good natured way. I do it in public and in private. You have seen me do it at briefings hundreds of times. I have teased people about their personal lives, their relationships, about getting married or not getting married. I mean no offense and only attempt to add some levity and banter to what is a very serious business.
I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.
To be clear I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but these are allegations that New Yorkers deserve answers to.
That’s why I have asked for an outside, independent review that looks at these allegations.
Separately, my office has heard anecdotally that some people have reached out to Ms. Bennett to express displeasure about her coming forward. My message to anyone doing that is you have misjudged what matters to me and my administration and you should stop now – period.”