One of the two women who accused New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment criticized his “predatory behavior” on Monday and asked other women to come forward if they have similar complaints about him.
Charlotte Bennett’s request came when New York Attorney General Letitia James said Cuomo’s office had formally requested an independent investigation into the allegations from Bennett and another former aide, Lindsey Boylan.
“For anyone who needs to hear this, please know that I have room for you as well,” Bennett said in a statement. “To the Governor’s Survivors: I’m here. Lindsey is here.”
“You don’t have to say a single word. But if you choose to speak your truth, we will be with you. I promise.”
Bennett has hired a prominent employment discrimination attorney, Debra Katz, who in her own statement said that Bennett “will cooperate fully with the Attorney General’s investigation.”
“We are confident that no disinterested investigator reviewing this evidence would embrace the governor’s selfish characterization of his behavior as a mentor or, at worst, unwanted flirting,” Katz said. “He was not acting as a mentor and his comments were not misinterpreted by Ms. Bennett.”
“He was abusing his power over her for sex. This is textbook sexual harassment.”
James, in a statement on his authority over the investigation, said in a statement: “This is not a responsibility we take lightly, as allegations of sexual harassment should always be taken seriously.”
Bennett, in his statement, said that Cuomo “has refused to acknowledge or take responsibility for his predatory behavior.”
“As we know, abusers, particularly those with enormous amounts of power, are often repeat offenders who engage in manipulative tactics to lower accusations, blame victims, deny wrongdoing and escape consequences,” he said.
Bennett noted that “it took the governor 24 hours and significant backlash to allow a truly independent investigation” after he made his allegations public Saturday in a New York Times article.
“These are not the actions of someone who simply feels misunderstood; they are the actions of an individual exercising power to avoid justice,” Bennett said.
Cuomo first suggested over the weekend that the Bennett and Boylan allegations be investigated by a former federal judge who previously worked with the governor’s top adviser.
Cuomo then took a turn, and his office suggested that James and Chief Justice Judith Kaye, who presides over the state’s highest court, jointly oversee the investigation.
James refused to share supervision. And the governor’s office, dealing with a growing political backlash both to the allegations and to his machinations that seek to control the investigation, agreed to ask the attorney general to take over the investigation.
Bennett said that in presenting her story “I expected to be attacked by those who reflectively question the honesty or motivation of those who report sexual harassment. I am not discouraged by these voices.”
She also said that “Presenting myself was a terrible decision. I decided to share my story because I had faith that they would support and believe me. Often this is not the case.
“Sharing my experience was only possible because of past survivors who stood up and told their stories. I hope my story helps other survivors feel that they can stand firm in their truth.”
CNBC has requested comment from Cuomo’s office.
A referral letter from Cuomo’s office to James on Monday granted his request that the Bennett and Boylan claims be investigated by private attorney or attorneys delegated by the attorney general.
The letter from Cuomo’s special counsel, Beth Garvey, said the results of that investigation “will be released in a public report.”
The letter also said that “due to the nature of this review,” the governor’s office will not approve or send weekly reports that are normally expected under state law authorizing the attorney general to delegate outside attorneys for such an investigation.
“All New York State employees have been directed to cooperate fully with this review,” Garvey wrote in the letter, released by James.
“I will be the point of contact for any witness interview or document production for the Executive Chamber and connect you with the appropriate attorney at any other agency or entity for any documents or witnesses necessary for the review,” Garvey wrote.
Bennett, 25, told The Times in an article published Saturday that Cuomo, 63, had asked him questions including whether he had “ever been with an older man,” if he was monogamous in his relationships, and other questions. personal questions asked she feels uncomfortable.
Boylan has said that Cuomo kissed her once without her consent and jokingly suggested playing strip poker on an official flight.
Cuomo has denied the claims of the 36-year-old Boylan.
But in a statement released Saturday, the governor did not dispute Bennett’s claims about what he had said.
“I never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm. I spend most of my life at work and colleagues are often personal friends as well,” Cuomo said that day.
“At work I sometimes think I’m being playful and I make jokes that I think are funny. Sometimes I make fun of people in a way that I think is personable,” the governor said.
“Now I understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in a way that I never intended. I acknowledge that some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as a Unwanted flirting … To the extent that someone felt that way, I’m really sorry. “
Cuomo also said, “To be clear, I never inappropriately touched anyone and I never proposed to anyone and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but these are accusations New Yorkers deserve answers to.”