NEW YORK (AP) — An investigation into New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has found that he sexually harassed multiple current and former state government employees.
State Attorney General Letitia James announced the findings Tuesday.
The investigation, conducted by two outside lawyers, found that the Cuomo administration was a "hostile work environment" and that it was "rife with fear and intimidation."
Cuomo faced multiple allegations last winter that he inappropriately touched and sexually harassed women who worked with him or who he met at public events.
"We have reached the conclusion that the Governor sexually harassed a number of State employees through unwelcome and unwanted touching, as well as by making numerous offensive and sexually suggestive comments," the report stated. "We find that such conduct was part of a pattern of behavior that extended to his interactions with others outside of State government."
The investigation also noted that the response to one allegation by the governor's office "constituted unlawful retaliation."
"In addition, we conclude that the culture of fear and intimidation, the normalization of inappropriate comments and interactions, and the poor enforcement of the policies and safeguards, contributed to the sexual harassment, retaliation, and an overall hostile work environment in the Executive Chamber," the report stated.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Cuomo fully denied that he acted inappropriately, claiming that "the facts are much different than what has been portrayed."
He directly denied allegations from two employees — former assistant Charlotte Bennett and an unnamed staffer who claimed she was groped.
In the case of Bennett, Cuomo admitted to "asking her questions I don't normally ask," citing concerns he had about a past instance she had experienced with sexual assault. He said some of those questions were asked in order "to ensure she had positive, supportive dating relationships." However, he denied his comments rose the level of harassment.
"I hear what Charlotte and her lawyer are saying, but they read into comments that I made and draw inferences that I never meant," Cuomo said. "They ascribe motives I never had. And simply put, they heard things that I just didn't say."
In the case of the unnamed woman and her groping claims, Cuomo said he welcomed a "welcome a full and fair review before a judge and a jury."
He also ascribed the way he acts around others to "generational" and "cultural" differences.
"I do kiss people on the forehead, I do kiss people on the hand, I do embrace people, both men and women," Cuomo said. "I am the same person in public that I am in private...I try to put people at ease."
The attorney general's report is expected to play an important role in an ongoing inquiry in the state Assembly into whether there are grounds for Cuomo to be impeached."
"This is a sad day for New York because independent investigators have concluded that Governor Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and, in doing so, broke the law," James said in a statement. "I am grateful to all the women who came forward to tell their stories in painstaking detail, enabling investigators to get to the truth. No man — no matter how powerful — can be allowed to harass women or violate our human rights laws, period."