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Cuomo lashes out at calls to resign after new allegations emerge

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference, in Albany, N.Y., on March 3, 2021. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the NY Governor via AP/ NBC)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday made clear he will not be resigning after two additional women accused him of behaving inappropriately when they worked for him.

Posted: Mar 7, 2021 1:31 PM

NBC-- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday made clear he will not be resigning after two additional women accused him of behaving inappropriately when they worked for him.

In a conference call with reporters, Cuomo struck a more defiant tone, saying demands from politicians that he resign are "anti-democratic." Cuomo said his administration's work in helping the state recover from the pandemic is too important for him to step aside now.

"There is no way I resign," he said.

Cuomo's comments followed claims made Saturday in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post by Ana Liss and Karen Hinton, respectively, whose harassment allegations are similar to those made in recent weeks by former Cuomo aides Charlotte Bennett and Lindsey Boylan.

Liss, now 35, told the Journal that when she served as a policy and operations aide to Cuomo, 63, from 2013 to 2015, he once hugged her, kissed her on both cheeks and grabbed her waist for a photo.

"Reporters and photographers have covered the governor for 14 years watching him kiss men and women and posing for pictures," Cuomo senior advisor Rich Azzopardi said in a statement Saturday.

"At the public open house mansion‎ reception there are hundreds of people and he poses for hundreds of pictures," he said. "That's what people in politics do."

Hinton worked as a press aide to Cuomo when he led the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Bill Clinton. She told the Post he once summoned her to his hotel room, embraced her, then pulled her back to him when she pulled away. She made similar remarks in an interview with NBC New York.

"It was inappropriate. We both were married. I worked for him and it was too much to make it so personal and intimate," she told NBC New York.

Two people close to Hinton said she had described the episode to them, according to NBC New York. One of them said Hinton called her shortly after the alleged incident.

Peter Ajemian, Cuomo’s director of communications, told the Post, "This did not happen."

"Karen Hinton is a known antagonist of the Governor’s who is attempting to take advantage of this moment to score cheap points with made up allegations from 21 years ago," he said.

She also told NBC New York that, while at HUD, Cuomo made hiring decisions based on looks.

"I sat in on [one] interview and he told me later she wasn’t attractive enough for the job so he didn’t hire her," she said.

Liss and Hinton did not immediately respond Saturday night to requests by NBC News for comment.

Hinton responded to Ajemian's remarks by telling the Post, "Attacking the accuser is the classic playbook of powerful men trying to protect themselves."

Speaking Sunday, Cuomo said Hinton's claims are "not true."

"As everybody who has been involved in any level in New York politics knows, she has been a longtime political adversary of mine," he said, claiming Hinton "has made many accusations" about him.

Responding to Liss, Cuomo said he did take a photo with her but said as a politician it is "commonplace" to take such pictures.

The Post also interviewed other Cuomo subordinates who claimed he created a hostile and toxic work environment, in which he sometimes demeaned men in front of their coworkers.

"The people of this state elected the Governor to represent them four times during the last 14 years and they know he works day and night for them," Azzopardi said in a written response to the Post report.

"There is no secret these are tough jobs, and the work is demanding, but we have a top tier team with many employees who have been here for years, and many others who have left and returned," he said. "The Governor is direct with employees if their work is sub-par because the people of New York deserve nothing short of excellence."

The accusations came after Bennett, 25, a former executive assistant and health policy adviser in the Cuomo administration, said he once asked her about her sex life and whether or not she slept with older men. Her claims were first reported in the New York Times on Feb. 27.

Boylan, a deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to the governor from 2015 to 2018, tweeted in December that Cuomo "sexually harassed me for years."

Yet another woman, Anna Ruch, 33, told The Times in a report published Monday that the governor, whom she had just met, placed his hands on her face and asked to kiss her at a wedding in 2019. A photograph appears to show the moment.

Cuomo has denied harassing women and said he was sorry for how his behavior made them feel.

"I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable," he said Wednesday. "It was unintentional. And I truly and deeply apologize for it."

Several prominent New York lawmakers called on him to step down last week, including Rep. Kathleen Rice, but most of his allies have stopped short of saying he should step down.

Cuomo on Sunday urged everyone to wait for the results of New York Attorney General Letitia James' investigation into his behavior. The governor said when he served as attorney general he received "all sorts of allegations against politicians all the time," but did not make them public.

"People are free to make allegations," he said. "But then we get the facts."

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