New York Governor Andrew Cuomo refused to resign Wednesday despite saying he regrets three women who claim he sexually molested them.
An emotional cuomo also urged the public to on hold as New York Attorney General Letitia James oversees an investigation into allegations made by women, two of whom had previously worked as his aides.
“I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” Cuomo said at a press conference. “It was unintentional.”
“And I really apologize deeply for it,” he said. “I feel terrible about it.”
“I certainly never plan to offend, hurt or hurt anyone,” he said. “This is the last thing I ever want to do.”
When asked directly whether he would step down from his third term as governor, Cuomo said, “I will not step down.”
“I work for the people of New York,” he added. “I’m going to do the job that the people of the state chose me to do.”
The governor also said he would “cooperate fully” with the investigation by one or more lawyers James would appoint. These lawyers have the power to compel witnesses, including Cuomo, to answer their questions.
“I ask New Yorkers to wait for the attorney general’s facts before forming an opinion,” said Cuomo.
Cuomo was first accused last week by former adjutant Lindsey Boylan of kissing her without her consent and suggesting a game of strip poker on an official flight. Cuomo’s office strongly declined Boylan’s account at the time.
Within days, another former aide, Charlotte Bennett, 25, told the New York Times that Cuomo, 63, had asked her questions last year, including whether she had “ever dated an older man,” whether she had Monogamous was her relationships and other personal issues that made her feel uncomfortable.
On Monday, the Times published claims by another woman, Anna Ruch, who said that Cuomo, whom she did not know, put his hand on her bare lower back at a wedding. The governor then told her she was “aggressive” when, according to Ruch, he put his hands around her face.
Ruch said Cuomo then asked if he could kiss her.
A photo of an uncomfortable looking Ruch with Cuomo on his face accompanied this article.
Ruch’s report increased the number of people who have urged Cuomo to resign, including New York Democratic MP Kathleen Rice.
Cuomo’s comments on Wednesday marked the first time he publicly addressed the women’s allegations.
“I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly,” he said. “Firstly, I fully support a woman’s right to speak up and I think that should be encouraged in every way.”
After apologizing for making the women uncomfortable, Cuomo said, “I’m embarrassed and it’s not easy to say, but that’s the truth.”
“I want you to know … I’ve never touched anyone inappropriately,” said the governor. “I never knew then that I was making someone feel uncomfortable.”
“And I never plan to offend, hurt, or hurt anyone.”
“I learned an important lesson from an incredibly difficult situation for myself and other people,” said Cuomo.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the pain I’ve caused someone. I never meant to, and I’ll be better for the experience.”
While interviewing reporters, Cuomo later said, “You can find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people, men, women. It’s my usual and customary way of greeting.”
“By the way, it was my father’s way of greeting people,” he said, referring to his late father, Mario Cuomo, who himself was governor.
Cuomo tried last weekend to see who would investigate Boylan’s and Bennett’s allegations, saying that a former federal judge would do the job.
The governor then sought the state chief magistrate to work with James to oversee the investigation.
Cuomo’s efforts sparked a political backlash, and James explicitly opposed the deal. The governor quickly relented, saying James’ office would handle the probe itself.