Cuomo reverses course, calls for special investigator amid sexual harassment allegations

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Sunday called on the state attorney general to appoint a special investigator to look into the sexual harassment allegations against him. New York Attorney General Letitia James, a onetime Cuomo ally, said earlier Sunday she “stood ready” to oversee an investigation.

It’s a reversal for Cuomo, whose special counsel said on Saturday night that a judge they selected would investigate the allegations.

On Saturday night, a former aide told The New York Times that Cuomo had harassed at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. The woman, Charlotte Bennett, 25, told the Times Cuomo had asked her if she was open to a relationship with an older man — an encounter she interpreted as having sexual overtones. Bennett told the Times that when she told Cuomo’s chief of staff about the encounter, she transferred to another job on the other side of the Capitol. 

Cuomo responded with a statement on Saturday night that he believed he was acting as a mentor and he “never made advances toward Ms. Bennett, nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate.”

The allegations came in the same week that another former aide, former deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to the governor Lindsey Boylan, accused him of subjecting her to an unwanted kiss and inappropriate comments. Cuomo has denied those allegations.

The allegations also come as the governor is fighting off another scandal: Federal authorities have been investigating how his administration handled nursing home patients in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent weeks, Cuomo and his administration have been forced to admit the COVID-19 death toll for nursing home residents is nearly 15,000, nearly double the previous number. The 15,000 number includes patients in long-term care facilities and those who died after being taken to a hospital. 

While the Trump administration opened up an investigation into Cuomo’s handling of the nursing home data, criticism of him and the administration intensified after a top aide  top aides admitted that she was concerned the data was “going to be used against us.”

While some Republicans and Democrats have begun to call for Cuomo to step down amid the allegations, others, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, have called for him to be stripped of the emergency governing powers that he was given at the height of the pandemic.

Cuomo is currently in his third term as governor with his term set to end in 2022. 

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Bourbiza Mohamed. Writer and Political Discourse Analysis.

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