New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is refusing to detail how his office is protecting two current aides who claim that he sexually harassed or assaulted them in the past year.
The governor is insisting he can still lead state government despite calls for resignation from most New York Democratic lawmakers. And he repeated Wednesday that he is no longer going to comment in public on sexual harassment allegations.
“They don’t even understand the nature of the job, right? The nature of being governor is there are always multiple situations to deal with,” he said. “The past four years, we had to deal with Donald Trump as president. You want to talk about a distraction, that was a distraction.”
The governor had commented on the allegations for weeks, even amid the state attorney general office’s ongoing investigation that launched in early March. But he announced the change last week in light of a new Assembly committee impeachment investigation.
“We’re cooperating with that review and I won’t have a comment on it,” Cuomo said, in response to a reporter’s question Wednesday about how his office is protecting current aides who say he sexually harassed them.
Any behavior that is unwelcome and of a sexual nature _ from words, jokes, pranks, to intimidation, to physical advances _ can count as sexual harassment under a sweeping 2019 state law that Cuomo championed as the “nation’s strongest anti-sexual harassment law.”
His office hasn’t responded to multiple requests for details on when the governor took sexual harassment training required by the law, including the date.
The Governor’s Office of Employee Relations is required to investigate instances of potential sexual harassment in the workplace of state agencies under a 2018 executive order signed by Cuomo.
Employees who engage in sexual harassment or knowingly allow it to continue can face sanctions.
State law protects employees from retaliation like losing their job, and potential victims of sexual harassment are often advised that, “Certainly every individual who comes forward and comes forward is protected from retaliation and we are making sure that occurs in this case, as well,” Cuomo’s special counsel Beth Garvey said.
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