Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledged for the first time Sunday that some of his behavior with aides had been “misinterpreted as unwanted,” and said he would cooperate with a harassment investigation led by the state’s attorney general.
In a statement released amid mounting criticism from within his own party, the Democrat maintained he had never inappropriately crossed the line with people, but he had teased people and made jokes about their personal lives in an attempt to be “playful.”
“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. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted,” he said, and to the extent anyone felt that way, he expressed his remorse.
He made the comments after the state’s attorney general demanded Cuomo grant her the authority to investigate claims he harassed at least two aides who worked for him.
Top Democrats statewide appeared to be abandoning Cuomo in large numbers as he tried to retain some say over who would investigate his workplace conduct.
Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat who has been, at times, allied with Cuomo but is independently elected, appeared to emerge as a consensus choice to lead a probe.
Over several hours Sunday, she and other leading party officials rejected two proposals by the governor that they said could potentially have limited the independence of the investigation.
Under his first plan, announced Saturday evening, a retired federal judge picked by Cuomo, Barbara Jones, would have reviewed his workplace behavior. In the second proposal, announced Sunday morning in an attempt to appease legislative leaders, Cuomo asked James and the state’s chief appeals court judge, Janet DiFiore, to jointly appoint a lawyer to investigate the claims and issue a public report.
James said neither plan went far enough.
“I do not accept the governor’s proposal,” she said. “The state’s Executive Law clearly gives my office the authority to investigate this matter once the governor provides a referral. While I have deep respect for Chief Judge DiFiore, I am the duly elected attorney general and it is my responsibility to carry out this task, per Executive Law. The governor must provide this referral so an independent investigation with subpoena power can be conducted.”
Many of the biggest names in New York politics lined up quickly behind James.
Late Sunday afternoon, Beth Garvey, Special Counsel and Senior Advisor to the Governor released a statement in which she announced that Cuomo was he asked NYS Attorney General Tish James to appoint a special independent counsel to investigate the allegations.
“The Governor’s office wants a thorough and independent review that is above reproach and beyond political interference. Therefore, the Governor’s office has asked Attorney General Tish James to select a qualified private lawyer to do an independent review of allegations,” the statement read. “The independent lawyer will be legally designated as a Special Independent Deputy Attorney General and granted all powers provided under Section 63(8) of the Executive Law. As necessary, other lawyers from the appointed lawyer’s firm shall be similarly designated to assist in the review. The lawyer shall report publicly their findings. The Governor’s office will voluntarily cooperate fully.”
Reporting by AP