A third woman accused the governor of New York on Monday Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, hours after the once powerful Democrat formally enabled the investigation of two similar complaints by two former employees.
The young Anna Ruch, 33, who, unlike the previous complainants, was never his collaborator, told The New York Times that Cuomo asked her, at a wedding in 2019, if he could kiss her, after she pushed the hand that he had placed on the small of her back.
“I was so confused, shocked and embarrassed.” She told the newspaper. “I turned my head and was speechless.”
The new testimony further complicates matters for the 63-year-old governor, the target of criticism, including from his own party, after temporarily establishing himself a national star for his handling of the pandemic in 2020.
Rauch’s public complaint joins that of the Charlotte Bennett, a former employee of Cuomo who said that he had sexually harassed her last year, and that of Lindsey Boylan, a former adviser who described unwanted physical contact by the governor.
This Monday, the governor formally authorized him to be investigated for the accusations. State Attorney General Letitia James said the state attorney’s office Cuomo granted him written authorization to carry out an independent investigation.
“This is a responsibility that we do not take lightly as allegations of sexual harassment must always be taken seriously.” James said in a statement.
The letter to James indicates that the results of the investigation will be “disclosed in a public report.”
Cuomo said Sunday that he “sincerely regrets” that his conduct was “misinterpreted as unwanted flirtation.”
The governor denied having engaged in any inappropriate conduct or proposal, and on Sunday admitted the investigation of the events.
To conduct that investigation, he initially chose a former federal judge, but senior figures in his party said that did not ensure transparency.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio rejected comments from Cuomo.
“That is not an apology. He seems to be saying, ‘I was joking.’ Sexual harassment is not fun. It is something serious”, said De Blasio, an old rival of Cuomo.
One member of a group of New York state parliamentarians who combat sexual harassment called Cuomo’s comments “insulting.”
“It does not assume any responsibility. There is no reason to think that he will not repeat that behavior.” Riya Pasarell said.
Bennett described the governor’s response as “the actions of an individual exercising power to avoid justice” in a statement Monday night to the Times.
“I’m with Anna Ruch.” Bennett tweeted separately. “His inappropriate and aggressive behavior cannot be justified or normalized”, he sympathized.
According to Bennett, 25, Cuomo told her last June that he was open to dating in their twenties and asked if the age difference could influence a romantic relationship, the Times reported.
Yes OK Cuomo never tried to touch her, “I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me and I felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” she said.
Boylan, 36, also tweeted her support, writing that Ruch’s account made her feel “sick.”
This former employee said in a blog that Cuomo harassed her when she worked for his administration from 2015 to 2018. She reported that he gave her an unwanted kiss on the lips, suggested that she play “strip poker” and touched the lower part of her back, arms and legs.