More women who worked for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo are coming forward and describing behavior that they felt was inappropriate. Ana Liss told the Wall Street Journal that when she worked as a policy and operations aide for the governor between 2013 and 2015 he called her “sweetheart,” touched her lower back at a reception, and kissed her hand. He also seemed fond of asking her personal questions, including whether she had a boyfriend. Although Liss said that at the time she dismissed the governor’s actions as nothing serious, she has changed her mind over the years. “It’s not appropriate, really, in any setting,” she said, noting that it was patronizing behavior that diminished her to “just a skirt” rather than a professional.
Another woman, Karen Hinton, a former press aide to Cuomo, told the Washington Post she endured a “very long, too long, too tight, too intimate” embrace from the now-governor in a dimly lit Los Angeles hotel room in December 2000. Hinton had previously worked for Cuomo and at the time of the encounter was consulting for him while he led the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Hinton said she pulled away from the embrace that was “not just a hug” but he insisted. “He pulls me back for another intimate embrace,” she said. “I thought at that moment it could lead to a kiss, it could lead to other things, so I just pull away again, and I leave.” Hinton didn’t describe the encounter as harassment but said she saw it as a power play by Cuomo. Hinton said she only decided to speak up recently after watching the governor brush off other allegations of inappropriate conduct.
Cuomo’s office strongly denied Hinton’s allegation. “This did not happen,” Peter Ajemian, Cuomo’s director of communications, said, characterizing Hinton as “a known antagonist” of the governor. A senior Cuomo adviser also dismissed the allegations by Liss, implying she was reading too much into normal encounters. “Reporters and photographers have covered the governor for 14 years watching him kiss men and women and posing for pictures,” Rich Azzopardi said. On Wednesday, Cuomo denied he ever touched women “inappropriately” but apologized for any pain he may have inadvertently caused. “I understand that sensitivities have changed and behavior has changed, and I get it. And I’m going to learn from it,” he said.
These latest allegations come after other women have come forward. Lindsey Boylan said Cuomo once kissed her on the lips and made inappropriate comments. Charlotte Bennett has also come forward to say Cuomo asked her inappropriate questions that she saw as an effort to weigh whether she would consider sleeping with him.
In reporting Hinton’s comments, the Washington Post also takes a step back and reached out to more than 150 former and current Cuomo staffers dating back to his HUD days. Most didn’t respond. But many of those who did described Cuomo as leading a toxic workplace where verbal attacks on subordinates was common and where he regularly asked young women who worked for him about their dating lives. Although the women said they didn’t see the questions as propositions, they did say it was part of a culture in which young women were regularly degraded.