Congress

Biden White House, Nancy Pelosi Support Independent Sex Harassment Probe of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Andrew Kelly | Reuters
  • The White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday strongly backed an independent investigation of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
  • Pelosi called the sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo by Charlotte Bennett and Lindsey Boylan "serious and credible."
  • President Joe Biden's press secretary, Jen Psaki, said Bennett's account to The New York Times about Cuomo asking questions about her sex life "was incredibly uncomfortable to read as a woman."

The White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday strongly backed an independent investigation of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has been accused of sexually harassing two state employees.

Pelosi, D-Calif., called the allegations against Cuomo by Charlotte Bennett and Lindsey Boylan "serious and credible."

President Joe Biden's press secretary, Jen Psaki, said the allegations by Bennett in a New York Times interview published Saturday that Cuomo had asked questions about her sex life "was incredibly uncomfortable to read as a woman."

Bennett told the Times that last June the governor pointedly asked her when was the last time he "really hugged somebody?"

"I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared," Bennett said. "And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job."

Bennett's claim came on the heels of allegations by Boylan, 36, who said the governor kissed her without her consent and jokingly suggested a game of "strip poker" on an official flight. Cuomo denies the claims by Boylan, who had been a special advisor to him for economic development.

"We certainly believe that every woman coming forward, Charlotte, Lindsey, should be treated with respect and dignity and be able to tell their story," Psaki said during a White House news conference.

"And we will leave that process to the attorney general to make a determination on the path forward," Psaki said.

Pelosi, in a statement said, "The women who have come forward with serious and credible charges against Governor Cuomo deserve to be heard and to be treated with dignity."

"The independent investigation must have due process and respect for everyone involved," Pelosi said.

Meanwhile, leading Cuomo financial backers are pausing and reevaluating their support of him as the probe picked up steam, people directly involved in fundraising told CNBC on Monday.

The statements supporting that probe came a day after Cuomo's ham-fisted effort to hand-pick the people who would be investigating those allegations was slapped back by Letitia James, attorney general of New York.

James, who like Cuomo is a Democrat, has said she will oversee that probe after the governor's office asked her to appoint a private lawyer to review the claims.

"This is not a responsibility we take lightly," James said Sunday. "We will hire a law firm, deputize them as attorneys of our office, and oversee a rigorous and independent investigation."

The governor's office originally said a former federal judge, Barbara Jones, who had worked with the governor's top advisor Steven Cohen, would lead the investigation of him.

After a backlash to that announcement, Cuomo's office said he would ask James, who is the state's top law enforcement officer and Janet DiFiore, chief judge on New York's highest court, to handle the probe.

James rebuffed that idea, calling for her office to sole authority over the investigation, and demanding subpoena power.

The attorney general quickly got her wish when Cuomo's office caved.

Bennett told the Times that Cuomo asked her questions that included whether she was monogamous when in a relationship, and if she had ever "been with an older man."

Cuomo is 63 years old. Bennett, 25, had told Cuomo at one point that she played soccer in middle school against one of the governor's daughters, the Times reported.

The governor said Saturday that he never made sexual advances toward Bennett, "nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate."

"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," Cuomo said.

"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 about that."

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