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28 Feb, 2021 01:49

‘I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me:’ 2nd former aide to NY Gov. Cuomo accuses him of sexual harassment

‘I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me:’ 2nd former aide to NY Gov. Cuomo accuses him of sexual harassment

Another ex-aide has accused New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, already facing allegations of sexual harassment, of improper advances. Charlotte Bennett, 25, said he asked about her sex life and whether she ever dated an ‘older man.’

Bennett joined Cuomo’s administration in early 2019 and was promoted from her entry-level position to that of a senior briefer and executive assistant to the governor within several months. She told the New York Times that she was constantly grilled about her sex life by her former boss.

The former aide said that she reported Cuomo’s alleged sexual overtures to his chief of staff, Jill DesRosiers, and special counsel to the governor, Judith Mogul, after one particularly disturbing encounter in June last year, during which Cuomo asked her about whether she was single and whether she had slept with older men.

Cuomo allegedly lamented that he “can’t hug anyone,” referring to pandemic restrictions. When Bennett said that she also missed her friends and family, the governor reportedly emphasized “No, I mean like really hugged somebody?”

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The woman said that while Cuomo did not physically abuse her, she felt like the governor was wielding his power to hit on her. 

“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” she told the Times, adding that she thought her refusal would mean “the end” of her job in the Cuomo administration.

Bennett said that when she began working for Cuomo, she considered him a mentor and a father figure. She said that he would prod her about her romantic life from time to time, but she did not think of it as something sinister until a meeting on May 15, which she described as a “turning point” in Cuomo’s conduct. After she brought some papers to his office at the Capitol that day, Bennett said that the governor grilled her about whether she was dating any members of his administration.

When she told him about an upcoming university speech in which she wanted to refer to own her story as a sexual assault survivor, Cuomo became fixated on the topic. Bennett said he stared her down and repeated several times: “You were raped and abused and attacked and assaulted and betrayed.” She found his manner deeply unsettling, comparing it to “something out of a horror movie.”

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After she confided in DesRosiers and Mogul, Bennett was appointed a health policy advisory and assigned work at a different part of the Capitol, away from Cuomo’s office. She told the Times that she decided not to insist on an investigation into her former boss at the time, as she wanted to leave the experience behind. However, Bennett eventually resigned from her position and moved to another state, saying that her hope that she would “have distance” from Cuomo was dashed. “His presence was suffocating,” she said.

The governor has rejected the allegations, insisting that he had “never made advances” towards Bennett, arguing that he never intentionally engaged in “inappropriate” behavior in his interactions with the 25-year-old former staffer.

In his statement on Saturday, Cuomo said that the situation “cannot be and should not be resolved in the press,” announcing “a full and thorough outside review” of the allegations.

Bennett became the second former staffer to come forward with allegations against Cuomo. Earlier this month, his former aide Lindsey Boylan claimed the governor had invited her to play strip poker and kissed her on the lips without permission. Bennett retweeted Boylan’s story earlier this week.

In addition to snowballing allegations of sexual harassment, Cuomo has been facing backlash over his handling of nursing homes during the Covid-19 pandemic after his secretary admitted that data on coronavirus deaths had been hidden to avoid the Trump administration scoring political points.

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