Third woman accuses NY governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment

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  • Anna Ruch is the third woman to accuse New York governor Andrew Cuomo of inappropriate behaviour.
  • Former aides Charlotte Bennett and Lindsey Boylan made similar allegations.
  • Cuomo denied sexual harassment and said his actions were misinterpreted.


A third woman on Monday accused Andrew Cuomo of inappropriate behaviour, just hours after the New York governor formally referred himself for investigation over similar allegations from two former aides.

Cuomo has faced growing criticism, including from within his own Democratic Party, for suggesting the two ex-aides had "misinterpreted" him.

READ | NY governor Cuomo sorry for 'misinterpreted' conduct, denies sexual harassment

Anna Ruch, 33, told The New York Times that she met Cuomo at a wedding in September 2019. During the reception, he put his hand on her bare lower back - which she pushed away - and asked if he could kiss her.

"I was so confused and shocked and embarrassed," Ruch told the Times. "I turned my head away and didn't have words in that moment."

Cuomo became a national star last spring with his straight-talking yet empathetic coronavirus briefings that contrasted sharply with then-president Donald Trump's dismissive approach to the pandemic.

Ruch's testimony comes just days after former aide Charlotte Bennett told The New York Times that he sexually harassed her last year.

Investigation

Bennett's allegations on Saturday came just four days after another ex-aide, Lindsey Boylan, described unwanted physical contact from Cuomo.

Earlier Monday, New York attorney general Letitia James said that Cuomo's office had written to her granting her request to set up an independent probe into the accusations.

"This is not a responsibility we take lightly as allegations of sexual harassment should always be taken seriously," James said in a statement.

The referral letter noted that the findings of the investigation will be "disclosed in a public report," James added.

Cuomo said on Sunday he was "truly sorry" if his conduct had ever been "misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation" as he faced mounting pressure over the scandal.

He has denied ever inappropriately touching or propositioning anyone.

On Sunday, the 63-year-old bowed to pressure to grant an independent investigation.

He initially chose a former federal judge to lead the probe but high-profile figures in his own party said that was insufficiently transparent.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday slammed Cuomo's statement responding to the allegations.

"That's not an apology. He seemed to be saying, 'Oh, I was just kidding around.' Sexual harassment is not funny. It's serious," said de Blasio, a long-time rival of Cuomo's.

A member of the Sexual Harassment Working Group, a group of former New York parliamentary aides which fights harassment, described Cuomo's comments as "insulting".

"He's not taking any accountability. We have no reason to think he's not going to repeat this behaviour again," Rita Pasarell told the Guardian in comments tweeted by the group.

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