With just three days left before New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s planned resignation, the embattled governor seemed determined not to go out quietly—though instead of appearing himself, he had his few remaining surrogates go on the offense for him.
On Friday afternoon, Cuomo’s personal attorney Rita Glavin was dispatched to once again attack the women who said they were sexually harassed by Cuomo, while his senior advisor Richard Azzopardi penned an op-ed claiming Cuomo was being railroaded.
Glavin, who is being paid from Cuomo’s campaign coffers, appeared in a 20-minute-long Vimeo video (no longer broadcasting from the official state website), and demanded certain corrections made to the State Attorney General’s 165-page report which detailed how the governor sexually harassed 11 women.
Glavin wanted the word “grabbed” in the report changed to “tapped,” in an instance where an unnamed state worker said Cuomo touched her butt at a work event. She again demanded the AG’s office turn over underlying evidence, and she had a new line of attack for accuser Charlotte Bennett.
“We have been given some new information that pertains to Ms. Bennett that relates to her credibility,” Glavin said, insisting she wouldn’t get into the details “out of respect for Ms. Bennett.”
“This is information we’ll be providing to the attorney general and the assembly judiciary committee as they consider their report,” Glavin said.
Bennett, the second woman to speak publicly about allegations of sexual harassment against the governor, said Cuomo made a series of comments to her about sex life, her body, and how he was lonely and looking for company while she worked in his office. The Attorney General report includes notes from Cuomo’s top staffers about those encounters after Bennett reported the abuse to her higher-ups last summer, months before she went public with her account.
While Glavin, Cuomo, and his allies have often attempted to discredit the accounts of other women, up until Friday, Cuomo had expressed a degree of contrition towards Bennett, acknowledging he had asked her personal questions, but insisting that she’d misinterpreted his intent.
Following Glavin's remarks, Bennett said she was standing her ground.
"I will not be intimidated by the outgoing Governor or his lawyer," she wrote on Twitter.
Bennett’s attorney Debra Katz went further, pointing to state laws enacted by Cuomo in 2019 that prohibit retaliation for reporting sexual harassment.
“Smearing Charlotte, as his lawyer did today, is actionable post-employment retaliation. The Governor would be wise to think twice before holding another press conference,” Katz said. “The Governor is back to showing his true colors. He unleashed his lawyer and PR apparatus in an effort to smear Charlotte and the other women who courageously came forward. He cares not a whit for the people he has harmed.”
While Cuomo is slated to leave office this coming Monday, his legal woes are long from over.
The state assembly is still expected to put out a public report based on the findings of their own investigation into Cuomo. He faces five potential criminal probes in jurisdictions where alleged encounters with women detailed in the AG report occurred, an ongoing federal probe about his administration’s handling of nursing home deaths, and another State Attorney General investigation into his book deal, not to mention the threat of civil lawsuits against him.
Condemnation for Glavin’s remarks Friday came hard and fast.
“We cannot allow survivors of sexual harassment to be further traumatized by these continued attacks, lies, and conspiracy theories,” said Delaney Kempner, a spokesperson for New York Attorney General Letitia James. “[Our] investigation was exhaustive, thorough, and without outside influence, period.”
Shortly before Glavin’s comments, The Daily News published an op-ed from Cuomo’s senior advisor Azzopardi who contended his boss of nearly a decade had been “railroaded.”
“I understand this is not a popular opinion and, given my role as his longtime spokesman, some may dismiss me outright. However, I believe history will bear me out,” Azzopardi wrote. “Whatever you think of Andrew Cuomo, that is a loss for values we are supposed to cherish. Also, mark my words: Tish James will be announcing a run for governor within months.
Cuomo, who filed for retirement this week, will officially leave office at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, August 23rd. The NY Post spotted a U-Haul outside the Executive mansion on Friday, with state employees helping pack items up.