CHICAGO (CBS Chicago/CBSNewYork/CBS News) — At a news conference Wednesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the allegations of sexual harassment against New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo “distressing” and said a reckoning is already happening, but stopped short of specifically calling on Cuomo to resign.
Six women have now reportedly come forward and are accusing Cuomo of sexual harassment.READ MORE: Former Chicago Bear Dan Hampton Faces Driving While Intoxicated Charge After Recent In Northwest Indiana
Most recently, the Albany Times Union reported that a member of the executive chamber staff says the governor inappropriately touched her late last year during an encounter at the Executive Mansion in Albany, where she had been summoned to do work.
“The comments that have come out from these women who are not connected to each other, but are all coming out with a similar story – it’s distressing,” Mayor Lightfoot said.
She emphasized that no one can be above the law, and there will be a reckoning in these cases that is already happening. But she said it is owed both to the women who are accusing to Cuomo and to Cuomo himself to allow New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office to finish their investigation.
“I look forward to seeing the results of the New York Attorney General’s independent investigation,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot reiterated that she herself had been harassed at work when she was younger.
“I dealt with it and stopped it. I made sure that – I was pretty young in my career and I was in a situation where I was one of very few females, and I was being harassed on a regular basis by someone in full view of others – that’s how brazen this individual was,” she said.
She said she tried to get along with everyone as a young woman in the workplace, “but it just got to a point where it was downright offensive and it was inhibiting my ability to do my job,” she said.
The newspaper withheld the identity of the woman and has not reached her for comment. Her allegations were reportedly made over the weekend to a supervisor in the governor’s office, CBS 2 New York Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported.
On a conference call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon, Cuomo was asked about the new allegations.
“I’m not aware of any other claim. As I said last week, this is very simple. I never touched anyone inappropriately. As I said last week, I never made any inappropriate advances. As I said last week, no one ever told me at the time that I made them feel uncomfortable,” Cuomo said.
A spokesperson for state Attorney General Letitia James, whose office is investigating the charges, said, “We cannot comment on this matter.”
The new allegations come on the heels of another accuser speaking out. Ana Liss told WROC in Rochester over the weekend that her former workplace was toxic, adding that Albany environment is not safe for women.
“His actions made me feel really nervous. Like he sees me now. Now what? So you kind of just freeze,” Liss said in a recent interview.
Liss was a policy and operations aide in the Cuomo administration starting in 2013 — nearly a decade ago — and said her interactions with the governor were similar to the accusations of other young women who have come forward to accuse him of acting inappropriately.
“For me, there was one occasion where I was asked if I had a boyfriend by the governor. Those interactions, I thought at the time, were harmless flirtations and ‘That’s how he is.’ Other women went along with it and reacted kindly and bashful to that kind of treatment,” Liss said.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Slight Warm Up On The Way
She said another time the governor, “approached me. He hugged me and kissed me on the cheek, put his hand around my waist, and we took that picture together,” Liss said.
That incident was at a celebration of four years of on-time budgets.
“At the time, I thought that was wonderful and everyone was talking about it, ‘Oh, the governor likes you and he thinks you’re cute.’ I realize now that I wish that the environment were a little bit different for young women, young attractive women in Albany,” Liss said.
However, her accusations have a number of twists.
“I’m not claiming sexual harassment per se. I’m just saying that it wasn’t a safe space for young women to work or for women in general,” Liss said.
She says patronizing behavior towards young women reflected what she called a “megalomania.”
“When you feel powerful, you feel like you’re unimpeachable,” Liss said.
The allegations are similar to those by Charlotte Bennett, another former Cuomo aide. Bennett, who was the governor’s executive assistant and a health policy adviser, told CBS News that during a one-on-one meeting in June 2020, Cuomo asked questions that led her to the conclusion that, “the governor’s trying to sleep with me.”
“Without explicitly saying it, he implied to me that I was old enough for him and he was lonely,” she said.
Karen Hinton, another former aide, told the Washington Post that Cuomo “summoned her to his dimly lit hotel room and embraced her after a work event in 2000.” Cuomo denied Hinton’s story.
Lindsey Boylan, a former deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to the governor, accused Cuomo of giving her an unwanted kiss and making inappropriate comments. Anna Ruch has accused the governor of touching her lower back and face and asking if he could kiss her at a wedding reception in 2019.
Cuomo has apologized for some of his behavior, saying during a news conference last week that he was “embarrassed” for the “pain I’ve caused.”
“I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable,” Cuomo said. “I never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone pain. I feel terrible that these people felt uncomfortable, felt hurt, felt pain from the interactions, and I’m embarrassed by it, and I feel bad from it.”
Cuomo has also said his actions were misinterpreted, and his behavior is his way “of doing friendly banter.”
“I know if customs change, then I’ll change the customs and the behaviors, but I never meant to make anyone feel uncomfortable,” Cuomo said at a separate press conference on Sunday.
Attorney General James on Monday announced that lawyers Joon Kim and Anne Clark will lead the state’s investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct made against Cuomo.
Kim and Clark will have subpoena power and the authority to conduct formal depositions as part of the investigation, James said.MORE NEWS: Police: CTA Bus Driver Stabbed In Hand After Confronting Man Who Pickpocketed Woman In Old Town
Meanwhile so far, nearly three dozen lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans — have called on the governor to resign.