Taking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to task for his flippant response to the sexual harassment allegations leveled against him by two former staffers, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday said the latest scandal is no laughing matter and Cuomo’s description of “just kidding around” was not an apology.
“On top of it, he’s saying, ‘Oh, I was joking around.’ Sexual harassment’s not funny! Who the hell tries to explain that by saying I was just joking around. That even further confirms a mindset from a whole other time that we have left behind,” the mayor said during an interview on the Hot 97 radio show.
“There may be more stories like it, and everyone should come forward, because we’ve got to know the truth. … You cannot treat anyone this way. … It’ can’t be laughed off, it can’t be swept under the rug.”
De Blasio said he was “sickened” when he saw the allegations from the two women.
”It sickened me. It sickened me, the thought of a powerful man trying to take advantage of his power, intimidate a young woman,” Hizzoner said, adding that if the claims are true, Cuomo “was treating her like she was his property. It’s just disgusting, creepy.”
De Blasio, who has often clashed with Cuomo, was asked if he personally witnessed the governor bullying aides.
“I’ve seen him not in the sense of sexual harassment, I’ve seen him be abusive in a way that would not be accepted by anyone else in leadership toward people around him,” the mayor said.
De Blasio said he wants to see a “thorough, fast investigation” into the claims, and thanked the two women for making their claims public.
“The two women who have come forward did a great service to everyone. It’s not easy. I feel for them. It’s very tough to be in that spotlight. By coming forward, they’re saying you can’t accept this. They’re also protecting the next woman or next person that it could happen to,” he said.
The governor released a statement on Sunday trying to explain away the allegations, characterizing his comments as “jokes.”
“At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I do, on occasion, tease people in what I think is a good natured way,” Cuomo said in a prepared statement.
“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended,” he added. “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry.”
Cuomo’s statement was released a day after former staffer Charlotte Bennett, 25, said the 63-year-old governor asked about her sex life and told her that he was open to having a relationship with women in their 20s, a comment that made her feel like he “wanted to sleep” with her.
Her allegations followed claims from another former staffer, Lindsey Boylan, accusing the governor of kissing her on the lips and trying to get her to play “strip poker.”
As the allegations mounted, so did calls for an independent review of the two women’s claims.
On Sunday, Cuomo’s special counsel and senior adviser Beth Garvey finally relented and said state Attorney General Letitia James would launch an investigation.
“The Governor’s office wants a thorough and independent review that is above reproach and beyond political interference,” Garvey said in a statement. “Therefore, the Governor’s office has asked Attorney General Tish James to select a qualified private lawyer to do an independent review of allegations of sexual harassment.”
Meanwhile, a video showing Cuomo challenging a female journalist to “eat the whole sausage” in front of him at the 2016 New York State Fair resurfaced on social media — and a former New York journalist claims the “damaging” harassment and “personal attacks” she faced from Cuomo’s administration was one of the reasons that led her to quit her job..