Mere days after a former aide accused New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexually harassing her on several occasions, a second woman who used to work with the governor has come forward and accused him of sexual harassment. Charlotte Bennett, 25, told the New York Times Cuomo asked her questions about her sex life, whether she had monogamous relationships, and her feelings on sex with older men. Cuomo never tried to touch her but Bennett said the message was crystal clear. “I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett told the Times. “And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”
Cuomo denied the allegations, claiming he thought he was acting as a mentor and “never made advances toward Ms. Bennett” and insisted he never intended “to act in any way that was inappropriate.” Cuomo says he has called for an independent review of the allegations and asked New Yorkers to wait for the results “before making any judgments.”
Bennett, who was an executive assistant and health policy adviser in Cuomo’s administration until she left in November, said the incidents with the 63-year-old governor took place in the spring, at the height of the state’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. One particular episode that Bennett says stood out took place on June 5, when she was alone with Cuomo in his Albany office, and the governor proceeded to ask her several personal questions. In addition to allegedly asking her whether she thought age differences mattered in relationships, Cuomo also told her he was open to having a relationship with women in their 20s. As long as the women were older than 22, Cuomo allegedly said.
Cuomo also reportedly told Bennett he felt lonely during the pandemic and complained about not being able to hug anyone. Bennett says the governor then asked who she had lust hugged. She tried to deflect the question by saying she missed hugging her parents. “And he was, like, ‘No, I mean like really hugged somebody?’” she said. Bennett told her parents and friends about what happened and also Cuomo’s chief of staff, Jill DesRosiers, who transferred her to another job as health policy adviser. She also gave a “lengthy statement” to a special counsel to the governor at the end of June. Bennett later resigned. “His presence was suffocating,” she said. “I was thinking that I could recover and have distance but that is so naïve.”
Bennett’s account was revealed after Lindsey Boylan, a former state economic development official, published a post on Medium detailing her accusations of sexual harassment against Cuomo. Boylan had first accused the governor of sexual harassment in December in a series of Twitter posts but she didn’t offer up details and declined to speak to the media. In her post, Boylan says Cuomo harassed her on several occasions from 2016 to 2018, including giving her an unwanted kiss on the lips. Cuomo has denied the allegations.
After Boylan published her message, Bennett shared it on Twitter writing that people who wanted to know “what it’s like to work for the Cuomo admin” should read the piece. Boylan expressed support for Bennett after the Times story came out Saturday. “I am with you Charlotte,” she wrote.
The sexual harassment allegations come at a time when Cuomo is facing increasing criticism due to the way his administration handled nursing home death data during the pandemic. It marks a stark change for the governor, who less than a year ago was being hailed for his handling of the pandemic and the way he appeared to provide a foil to then-President Donald Trump. Whispers of a possible presidential run grew louder during the time. Now, “Democratic circles are already abuzz with talk about who might run against Cuomo in the 2022 primary, an unthinkable concept when he was topping the charts for his Covid response,” notes Bloomberg.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Sunday that there “should be an independent review” analyzing the allegations against Cuomo. “President Biden has been consistent that he believes that every woman should be heard, should be treated with respect, and with dignity. Charlotte should be treated with respect and dignity, so should Lindsey” Psaki said when asked about the latest allegation against Cuomo.
*This post has been updated with new information since it was first published.