A third woman has accused New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, the New York Times reports, saying he asked to kiss her at a wedding reception in September 2019.
Anna Ruch, 33, told the Times she had never met Cuomo before that day, when she thanked him for his comments about the newlyweds, who were friends of hers.
But then, she said, he put his hand on her bare lower back, prompting her to remove his hand.
“I promptly removed his hand with my hand, which I would have thought was a clear enough indicator that I was not wanting him to touch me,” she told the Times.
A photograph captures what happened next. According to Ruch, Cuomo said she seemed “aggressive” and then put his hands on her cheeks, asking her if he could kiss her.
“He said, ‘Can I kiss you?’” Ruch said. “I felt so uncomfortable and embarrassed when really he is the one who should have been embarrassed.”
“I was so confused and shocked and embarrassed,” Ruch said. “I turned my head away and didn’t have words in that moment.”
Cuomo spoke loudly enough for a friend standing nearby to hear, and that friend corroborated Ruch’s story, along with text messages from the time and photographs.
Cuomo was accused last week of sexual harassment by two former aides. First, Lindsey Boylan, ex-special adviser and deputy secretary for economic development in Cuomo’s administration, published a Medium post in which she said that the governor “abused his power” to sexually harass her and other women in the workplace, as CrimeOnline previously reported.
Then, on Saturday, the Times published a lengthy piece written from interviews with Charlotte Bennett, 25, a former executive assistant and health policy advisor until she left in November. Bennett told the Times that the harassment, which included questions about her sex life, whether she was monogamous, and if she’d ever had sex with older men.
The governor’s office didn’t directly comment on Ruch’s story when reached by the Times, instead referring to a statement Cuomo put out Sunday night in which he said he acknowledged that some of his comments “have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.”
“To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that,” the statement said.
Bennett told the times Cuomo’s apology was insufficient.
“These are not the actions of someone who simply feels misunderstood,” she wrote in a public statement. “They are the actions of an individual who wields his power to avoid justice.”
Ruch told the Times that after she had collected herself that night, she looked for the governor, hoping to confront him about his behavior. But she didn’t find him.
“It’s the act of impunity that strikes me,” Ruch said. “I didn’t have a choice in that matter. I didn’t have a choice in his physical dominance over me at that moment. And that’s what infuriates me. And even with what I could do, removing his hand from my lower back, even doing that was not clear enough.”
Cuomo has asked for an independent investigation of the allegations, and Beth Garvey, a special counsel to the governor, initially announced that Barbara S. Jones, a former federal judge in Manhattan, would the lead that investigation. But on Sunday, Garvey reversed course and said that the governor’s office had asked New York Attorney General Letitia James and Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals Janet DiFiore pick and independent attorney “in private practice without affiliation” to conduct the review and issue a public report.
“All members of the Governor’s office will cooperate fully,” Garvey said. “We will have no further comment until the report is issued.”
A second statement from Garvey added that “We will leave all decisions concerning the investigation to be made in the discretion of the independent counsel selected by the Attorney General and Chief Judge.”
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[Featured image: Andrew Cuomo (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, Pool, File)]