A second former aide to Andrew Cuomo has leveled claims of sexual harassment against the New York governor, saying he asked "questions about her sex life, whether she was monogamous in her relationships and if she had ever had sex with older men," according to a new report.
Charlotte Bennett, a former executive assistant and health policy adviser, described to The New York Times a conversation with Cuomo where he asked her personal questions about her sex life and whether she had slept with older men. She left the governor's office last November, months after the alleged harassment occurred during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 25-year-old woman said she was alone with the governor in his office on June 5 when he asked if she slept with an older men. Bennett said the governor never made a physical advance but his questions clearly suggested unprofessional conduct.
“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett told the Times. “And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”
The New York governor released a statement Saturday evening announcing an outside review of the latest allegations, but denied making "advances toward Ms. Bennett," whom he called a "hardworking and valued member of our team during COVID." That review will be conducted by former federal judge Barbara Jones, Cuomo's special counsel said.
"I ask all New Yorkers to await the findings of the review so that they know the facts before any judgments. I will have no further comment until the review has concluded," his statement ended.
Bennett says she disclosed the meeting with Cuomo's chief of staff and special counsel shortly after the interaction. She stated an investigation did not feel worth pursuing because she "wanted to move on."
Beth Garvey, current special counsel and senior adviser to the governor, confirmed Bennett's reporting of the incident and her "satisfaction and appreciation for the way in which it was handled." The matter was considered closed and no further action was taken.
New York politicians on both sides of the political aisle, many of whom already called for investigations into the governor following prior allegations, called for immediate action. State Senate Speaker Andrew Stewart-Cousins called Bennett's allegations "deeply disturbing" and said a "truly independent investigation must begin immediately." Upstate Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik repeated his claims that Cuomo is a "criminal sexual predator" who "must resign immediately."
These new allegations come only a few days after former senior staffer Lindsey Boylan published an explosive blog post in which she alleged the governor invited her to play strip poker during a flight, among other alleged sexual advances. On one occasion in 2016, she claimed that Cuomo blocked her exit from a room and kissed her.
"As we said before, Ms. Boylan's claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false," Cuomo's office said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. As to the specific claim about the alleged Oct. 2017 proposition to play strip poker, the statement cites four aides who traveled with Boylan that month and say the conversation never happened.
Boylan – who ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year and is running for Manhattan borough president this year – first accused Cuomo of sexual harassment last December. At the time, she said she left her position as deputy secretary for economic development in 2018 because she couldn't stand working with him anymore. Cuomo denied the claims then in the strongest terms.
Boylan's latest allegations came just hours after a Daily News op-ed by a former top Cuomo aide, Karen Hinton, who described an environment where he dominated female employees.
The allegations from Bennett add to the deluge against Cuomo in recent weeks. A Queens assemblyman said he'd been harassed and threatened by the governor, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said publicly that being threatened by Cuomo was "classic" behavior for him, federal prosecutors launched an investigation into how the Cuomo administration handled COVID in nursing homes -- and a new poll found that 57% of New Yorkers want a new governor next year.
Cuomo, who has drawn bipartisan criticism in recent weeks over dueling but separate controversies, hasn't held a live on-camera COVID briefing with a Q&A since last Friday. Until this week, he had held at least three of those weekly since COVID hospitalizations began to climb ahead of the holidays.