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Cuomo says he's sorry, but that he won't resign 

click to enlarge Gov. Andrew Cuomo responded to allegations of sexual harassment during a news briefing on March 3, 2021.

WXXI NEWS

Gov. Andrew Cuomo responded to allegations of sexual harassment during a news briefing on March 3, 2021.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday publicly addressed the sexual harassment accusations that have dogged him for days, saying he did not intend to make anyone uncomfortable and that he is sorry.

He also said he would not resign, despite calls from many officials, including some fellow Democrats, that he step down.

At times welling with emotion, Cuomo looked into the camera and offered an apology to all New Yorkers, and to the women who say he harassed them.

“I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” Cuomo said. “It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly I am embarrassed by it.”

Cuomo said he never touched anyone inappropriately and that he’s learned from the experience and promised that he will be “the better” for it.

Two former aides, Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett, say the governor engaged in a range of inappropriate behaviors, which included touching, an unsolicited kiss, intrusive questions about dating habits, asking whether sleeping with an older man would be an option, and inviting them to play strip poker.

The apology did not differ substantially from one he issued in a statement on Sunday evening, and one that Bennett has already said she would not accept because, as she put it, the governor was not taking responsibility for “predatory behavior.”

A third woman, Anna Ruch, produced a photo that showed the governor, whom she did know, holding her face in his hands at a wedding. She says he then asked if he could kiss her.

Cuomo said hugging and kissing women and men as a form of greeting is a custom he learned from his father, the former New York governor, Mario Cuomo. But he added that he now understands it is not acceptable.

“It could intend no offense, but if they were offended by it, then it was wrong,” Cuomo said.

State Attorney General Letitia James has opened an investigation into the matter. Cuomo, after some initial resistance, agreed to the probe, and said he and his office will cooperate fully. He asked everyone to withhold judgement until the findings were released.

“I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts of the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion,” he said.

Cuomo also faces a federal investigation over his office’s handling of nursing home polices during the pandemic.

A growing number of elected officials have called on Cuomo to resign, but the governor said he would not leave office. He said there’s too much to do right now and he needs to stay at his job.

“I’m not going to resign,” Cuomo said, adding that he needs to stay to steward the response to the pandemic,  revive the state’s damaged economy, and complete a state budget.

Legislative leaders, increasing discontent with Cuomo’s behavior, announced an agreement Tuesday to strip Cuomo of the emergency powers they granted him during the pandemic.

In the future, all major directives that concern things like opening and closing businesses, and requiring the wearing of masks, will have to be done in consultation with the Senate and the Assembly. The governor said he agrees with the new restrictions and will abide by them.

Karen DeWitt covers Albany for WXXI News, a media partner of CITY.
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