Yet another woman has come forward to accuse New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, becoming the third to go on record with similar charges after the state’s attorney general signaled she would open an investigation.
Anna Ruch, a former staffer in the Barack Obama administration and a member of Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign team, told the New York Times on Monday that while at a wedding reception for a mutual acquaintance in 2019, Cuomo made unwanted advances and touched her inappropriately.
After toasting the newlyweds, Ruch said Cuomo approached her and placed his hand on her bare lower back. When she removed his hand, she said Cuomo chided her for being “aggressive” and proceeded to grab her by the cheeks – a moment captured in a photo obtained by the Times – and asked if he could kiss her.
“I was so confused and shocked and embarrassed,” Ruch said. “I turned my head away and didn’t have words in that moment.”
Ruch’s account came just hours after New York Attorney General Letitia James said she had received a referral needed from the governor to launch a probe into similar allegations from two Cuomo aides. She previously stated she would hire an outside law firm and “deputize them as attorneys” of her office to “oversee a rigorous and independent investigation.”
Today, we received a referral letter providing our office the authority to move forward with an independent investigation into allegations of sexual harassment claims made against Governor Cuomo.At the close of the review, the findings will be disclosed in a public report.
— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) March 1, 2021
Before Ruch, a former aide to the governor, Lindsey Boylan, came forward to accuse Cuomo of sexual advances in December, more recently stating he had attempted to kiss her without her consent. A second aide, Charlotte Bennett, did much the same last week, alleging that Cuomo, then 63-years-old, had made unwelcome sexual comments while she worked for him. She was 25 at the time.
The governor’s office declined to address Ruch’s charges on Monday evening, instead referring the Times to a statement released over the weekend in response to accusations from Boylan and Bennett.
“At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I do, on occasion, tease people in what I think is a good natured way,” Cuomo’s statement said, insisting he “never inappropriately touched anybody” before offering an apology:
I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.
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