Two more former aides of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo have publicly accused him of sexual misconduct, bringing the total number of accusers to five.
Ana Liss, 35, previously served as Cuomo’s policy and operations aide between 2013 and 2015. She told the Wall Street Journal on Saturday that during her time in his administration, the governor had subjected her to unsolicited advances.
Liss claims it included asking her if she had a boyfriend, touching her on the lower back during an event reception and kissing her on the hand.
Also on Saturday, Karen Hinton, 62, spoke to the Washington Post about an incident in which Cuomo summoned her to his ‘dimly lit’ hotel room and embraced her after a work event in 2000.
Hinton said that she tried to pull away from Cuomo, 63, but that he pulled her back and held her before she backed away and escaped the room.
As the women came forward with their stories on Saturday, other aides spoke to both the Journal and Post about the ‘toxic’ work environment created by Cuomo.
It included testimonies from two male aides who claimed the governor would berate them using explicit language, calling them ‘pussies’ and saying that they ‘have no balls’.
Liss and Hinton are the third and fourth former Cuomo aides to make claims of harassment against the governor as he faces further calls to resign amid the accusations.
Ana Liss, 35, (pictured left) previously served as Cuomo’s policy and operations aide between 2013 and 2015 but claims he subjected her to sexual misconduct during her time in his administration. Karen Hinton (right) claims the governor summoned her to his ‘dimly lit’ hotel room and embraced her after a work event in 2000 before she managed to escape
Five women come forward with allegations of inappropriate conduct by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (pictured above)
Charlotte Bennett, 25, worked as an aide for Cuomo. She claims he sexually harassed her and left her ‘terrified’
Anna Ruch, 33, (left) claimed Cuomo behaved inappropriately at a Manhattan wedding in September 2019. Lindsey Boylan, 36, (right) claims Cuomo commented on her appearance inappropriately, kissed her without her consent and went out of his way to touch her on her lower back, arms and leg
Charlotte Bennett, 25, revealed this week that Cuomo had questioned her about her sex life and whether she had relationships with older men.
Lindsey Boylan also revealed in a February Medium post that the governor had tried to kiss her on the lips in his office and suggested they play strip poker during a 2017 flight. Cuomo’s office has said these claims are false.
A third accuser, Anna Ruch, 33, then came forward telling the New York Times that Cuomo put his hands on her face and asked if he could kiss her after meeting her at a September 2019 wedding.
New York Attorney General Letitia James is currently overseeing an investigation into Boylan and Bennett’s claims and plans to hire an outside law firm to conduct the probe.
As Liss’ allegations broke on Saturday night, Cuomo’s other accusers voiced their support.
Bennett tweeted the story while Boylan wrote that she is ‘very proud of Ana Liss’ as she called on Cuomo to ‘resign you disgusting monster’.
‘She is brave and she speaks for me too,’ Boylan said in a tweet. ‘It’s extremely destructive that our boss, the governor of New York, treated us this way’.
‘Thank you Karen Hinton for courageously sharing your story of how our boss, one of the most powerful men in the country, used his power to abuse you,’ she added when Hinton’s story broke. ‘I am sending you love. I am with you. We are with you.’
Ana Liss, 35, (pictured) has claimed that she drank heavily while working for Cuomo between 2013 and 2015
Liss (pictured center) joined Cuomo’s office after winning a competitive fellowship in 2013
Liss, pictured right, said that she was disappointed that Cuomo talked about her appearance instead of her work
Top female aides defending Cuomo have family ties to companies that make millions lobbying the governor
Two top female aides who have defended New York Governor Andrew Cuomo amid a wave of sexual misconduct and harassment allegations have family ties to companies that make millions from lobbying him.
Cuomo’s secretary Melissa DeRosa, who is also tied into the nursing home scandal, is married to Matthew Wing, who works as a communications executive for Uber, the New York Post reports.
Uber spent more than $1.1 million lobbying in New York, including ‘direct’ talks with Cuomo, in 2019 and 2020, it adds.
Her father, Giorgio DeRosa, is also chief Albany lobbyist for Bolton St. Johns firm.
According to the report, the Durst Organization paid $60,000; United Airlines $30,000, and Pfizer $33,000 for Bolton St. Johns to lobby Cuomo’s office.
‘Bolton St. Johns has been in business for over 25 years and we have always conducted our affairs with the highest ethical conduct and with the utmost transparency,’ a spokesperson told The Post.
‘We’ve promoted each other, and we’ve supported one another,’ DeRosa has said of the allegations against Cuomo. ‘And I don’t think that this diminishes any of that.’
Chief of staff Jill DesRosiers also had ties to large New York lobbyists.
Her life partner Harry Giannoulis is the president and co-founder of the Parkside Group.
Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association allegedly wrote checks for $35,850 and $32,700 respectively to Parkside for access to Cuomo, the Post reports.
Fanduel is also claimed to have spent at least $52,000 last year to use Parkside conncections.
‘Nobody at the Parkside Group has lobbied Jill DesRosiers and Harry Giannoulis doesn’t lobby anybody. It’s as simple as that,’ said Tim Costa, a spokesman for the firm.
In a statement, Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said: ‘Melissa is proactively recused on any specific matters that members of her family are involved with and her husband has never lobbied state government, nor is he registered to do so.
‘Jill has no involvement in anything that Parkside lobbies on,’ he continued, claiming that the criticism of their ties to the companies is sexist.
‘They have taken appropriate action to avoid conflicts and trying to define two of the highest ranking women in New York State government by their relationships and their family is something that never would be done to a male official.’
Liss claimed that she decided to come forward after Bennett and Boylan shared their stories, stating that Cuomo’s response to the allegations had been unsatisfactory.
The governor apologized for making the women feel uncomfortable during a press conference last week and claimed that the actions were part of his general behavior with everyone.
In a statement to the Journal, Cuomo’s senior adviser Rich Azzopardi claimed that Cuomo has acted in the same way that Liss described with hundreds of people during his time as governor.
‘Reporters and photographers have covered the governor for 14 years watching him kiss men and women and posing for pictures,’ he said.
‘At the public open-house mansion reception, there are hundreds of people, and he poses for hundreds of pictures. That’s what people in politics do.’
Liss has claimed that the alleged advances happened as she was working in her first year in his administration. She sat at a desk near his office in the Executive Chamber of the New York State Capitol in Albany.
While Liss told the Journal that she initially regarded Cuomo’s actions as harmless flirtations, she eventually began to see them as patronizing.
She claimed that they made her feel as if she had been reduced to ‘just a skirt’ instead of a professional.
‘It’s not appropriate, really, in any setting,’ she said. ‘I just wish—I wish that he took me seriously.’
When she joined Cuomo’s office, Liss already had a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and had been working at a business-development firm in Rochester, she told the Journal.
Liss joined the administration after winning a competitive fellowship in 2013 but was dismayed when the governor appeared to only comment on her personal life or appearance instead of about work, she claims.
‘He came right over to me and he was like, “Hey, Sweetheart!”‘ she said of a meeting in Cuomo’s residence at the Executive Mansion in Albany in 2014.
Liss told the Journal that Cuomo hugged her, kissed her on both cheeks and then grabbed her around the waist, which was similar to the incident Boylan had referenced in her accusations.
During Boylan’s 2016 encounter, however, the governor allegedly said he had a crush on her.
Liss said that she never made a formal complaint against the governor but eventually asked for a transfer to another office – as did Bennett, a week after Cuomo allegedly made his advances on her.
That year, Liss drank heavily, she claimed, and eventually left the Executive Chamber in 2015 to take a position at Cornell University as a corporate-relations manager. Other aides told the Journal they had witnessed her drinking heavily when she worked for the governor.
She says that her experience working with the governor led her to begin mental-health counseling in 2014 but that she is still proud of her work there and supports the policies that Cuomo has enacted.
According to Liss and other staffers who spoke to the Journal, Cuomo would often ask about their dating lives and comment on their physical appearance.
They claim that senior aides also advised that women wear heels when the governor was working from his office in Albany, a claim which Azzopardi denied, stating that no one was compelled to wear heels.
Three women who worked as young staffers in Cuomo’s offices also told the Post that the governor would often question them about their dating lives, which they believed to be part of an office culture that was degrading to young women.
‘What this is is a systemic, intentional, hostile, toxic workplace environment that . . . perpetuates abusive treatment of people who don’t have power or resources,’ one former staffer told the Post.
‘You didn’t know which Andrew you were going to get,’ another added of his Jekyll-and-Hyde persona.
‘I remember thinking it was pretty vicious and over the top, like if I had killed somebody,’ the woman added of a time when Cuomo allegedly shouted at her so badly that colleagues came to check on her well-being. ‘Not even my own parents had ever yelled at me the way he yelled at me.’
Some former aides said that like Liss, they were also infuriated with the manner in which the governor had brushed aside the allegations earlier this week.
However, other female aides told the Journal that they remembered Cuomo’s treatment of his female staff more endearingly, including when he sent them flowers on Valentine’s Day.
Hinton became the fifth accuser on Saturday night but the governor’s office quickly denied that the incident in the hotel room had ever taken place.
Peter Ajemian, Cuomo’s director of communications, told the Post that Hinton is a ‘known antagonist of the Governor’s who is attempting to take advantage of this moment to score cheap points with made up allegations from 21 years ago’.
‘All women have the right to come forward and tell their story — however, it’s also the responsibility of the press to consider self-motivation. This is reckless,’ he added.
Karen Hinton, 62, (pictured above) claims the governor summoned her to his ‘dimly lit’ hotel room and embraced her after a work event in 2000 before she managed to escape
In response, Hinton told the Post that ‘attacking the accuser is the classic playbook of powerful men trying to protect themselves’ as she said that watching Cuomo’s apologetic press conference ‘drove me crazy’.
‘I really thought the flirt wasn’t about having sex,’ Hinton said. ‘It was about controlling the relationship.’
At the time of the alleged encounter in the hotel room, Cuomo would have been leading the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Hinton was a consultant after moving to California.
The Post reports that Hinton and Cuomo have a contentious past and that they had a major blow up before she left the agency in 1999, remaining on as a consultant.
She had joined Cuomo in Los Angeles to promote a HUD program and later had dinner in his hotel before allegedly receiving a phone call from him stating: ‘Why don’t you come to my room and let’s catch up?’
Hinton said that she began to think it was unusual when Cuomo asked her to avoid being seen by Clarence Day, his longtime head of security, but that she continued to his room anyway.
‘I paused for a second,’ she told the Post about noticing the low lights in the room. ‘Why are the lights so low? He never keeps the lights this low.’
Karen Hinton, 62, pictured center, has also claimed that Cuomo made unwanted advances in 2000
Hinton, pictured right, and the governor are said to have a contentious relationship and argued when she worked for him
Ex and current Cuomo staffers say they’re ‘waking up to the fact they were in a cult’
Nearly a dozen former and current staffers have detailed to Gothamist/WNYC the working culture inside Gov Cuomo’s office after he was accused of sexual harassment.
Some of the staffers say they weren’t surprised by the allegations given what they claim is a bullying environment and intense work culture inside Cuomo’s office.
Former staffers have described working there as having ‘Stockholm syndrome’, while others said they’re ‘kind of waking up to the fact that we were in a cult’.
Some said Cuomo was a ‘micromanager to the 100th degree’ and had a tough management style.
One staffer who had a fellowship when she was in her 20s in 2013 described how she was quickly set up near Cuomo’s office, with staffers later telling her the governor liked blondes.
She was also told to wear stilettos when in the Albany office.
Some staffers, however, refuted the toxic workplace notions.
‘I think everyone there wants to do the best work they can. Sometimes that work-life balance is sacrificed. I was definitely burned out by the end of my time there. I didn’t take it personally,’ the staffer said.
Hinton said they sat on opposite couches and talked about their work at HUD and that Cuomo asked her personal questions about her life and marriage – including if she would leave her husband.
She claims that she grew self-conscious after speaking so much about herself and went to leave.
‘I stand up and say, “It’s getting late, I need to go,” ‘ she said, describing the embrace Cuomo gave her as ‘very long, too long, too tight, too intimate’.
‘He pulls me back for another intimate embrace,’ she said. ‘I thought at that moment it could lead to a kiss, it could lead to other things, so I just pull away again, and I leave.’
Hinton told the Post that she viewed the move as a ‘power play’ for ‘manipulation and control’ and that the pair never discussed the incident again, although they have remained in touch.
She has both publicly praised Cuomo and been critical of him, especially when working as press secretary in 2015 and 2016 for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, with whom the governor has an intense rivalry.
The Post spoke to two people who confirmed that Hinton had told them about the hotel incident after it happened.
‘She said she was really creeped out. It really freaked her out,’ said the friend, who identified as a supporter of Cuomo. ‘I don’t want him to have to resign over all this but the truth’s the truth’.
Hinton said she is sharing her story now to add support to the other accusers.
Cuomo is also facing criticism as details emerge of the ‘toxic’ work environment in his office, in which seven-day work weeks are common and he berates staff with verbal attacks.
‘People were terrified of him,’ one former appointee at HUD said. ‘You couldn’t forget it. Anyone who tells you they don’t remember is not telling the truth. Everybody got their turn, including me.’
Some aides told the Post that Cuomo delighted in embarrassing staff and would hit out at male aides for not being tough enough.
Others said he pitted staff members against each other, would tell them they should be fired, claimed he would lose elections because of them, among a host of other verbal and emotional abuse.
‘I would cry so hard that I would see stars,’ one female staffer said, revealing that recently he suggested during a group meeting that a male staffer should date her.
Another claimed that the governor never used her name but only called her ‘honey’ or ‘sweetheart’.
While another confirmed that she was asked about her dating life on several occasions.
‘It made me uncomfortable, but I didn’t feel like it was a proposition,’ she said, claiming that she began to opt for tighter dresses over time as she felt that ‘I was there, in part, to be eye candy’.
‘I think it was very normalized, . . . the way people related to one another, the sense that you were expected to look and behave in a certain way, be playful in a certain way,’ she added. ‘It was sort of that hard-to-put-your-finger-on-it culture.’
The Post claimed that those who agreed to speak did so with fear that the governor would seek retribution.
It comes after New York assemblyman Ron Kim claimed that Cuomo threatened him over the nursing home scandal and called him at home stating that he could destroy his career.
Lindsay Boylan, another of his accusers, wrote that she is ‘very proud of Ana Liss’ as she called on Cuomo to ‘resign you disgusting monster’ (as pictured)
Cuomo’s office has argued against all the claims, however.
‘The people of this state elected the governor to represent them four times during the last 14 years, and they know he works day and night for them,’ Azzopardi told the Journal in answer to the claims about the office environment.
‘There is no secret these are tough jobs, and the work is demanding, but we have a top-tier team with many employees who have been here for years, and many others who have left and returned.’
‘He had great expectations, but everybody was clear about what those expectations were,’ added Jacqueline Pata, who was Cuomo’s deputy assistant secretary for Native American programs when he was at HUD.
She added that she never witnessed any inappropriate behavior apart from the governor shouting when he was frustrated.
Fox’s Tammy Bruce was among those to criticize Cuomo on Saturday night, a pictured
Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer also blasted people praising Cuomo as the ‘second coming’
Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, for whom Liss now works, issued a statement voicing his support
‘He was an equal-opportunity yeller,’ Susan Del Percio, a Republican political strategist who was a special adviser to Cuomo in 2014 and 2015, added.
‘People came out of there, men and women, just equally stunned and gobsmacked.’
Azzopardi also disputed the claims about Cuomo’s language from the male aides, claiming that he personally had ‘never heard him use coarse language’ in the eight years that he has worked in the governor’s office.
The governor’s last appearance was made on Wednesday when he attempted to address the claims made by the first three accusers and claimed that the behaviour he showed the women was customary for him with all people but that he was going to change his habits.
‘I understand that sensitivities have changed and behavior has changed, and I get it. And I’m going to learn from it,’ he said.
Cuomo added that he never touched anybody inappropriately but that he apologized for making the women feel uncomfortable.
‘It was unintentional, and I truly and deeply apologize for it,’ he said Wednesday. ‘I feel awful about it and, frankly, I am embarrassed.’
Yet his young staffers told the Post that he did not see his behavior as problematic as others did.
‘He’s stuck in a different time warp where these things are okay,’ one said.
The reputation of the governor – who last year won an Emmy for his COVID-19 press briefings – is rapidly unraveling amid both the bombshell claims from the five female accusers and the ongoing COVID-19 nursing home deaths scandal.
On Friday, his office was forced to deny claims his aides massaged the data on the deaths back in July in order to hide the true extent of the crisis. The same day, New York State lawmakers passed a bill stripping Cuomo of his emergency powers.
New York Attorney General Letitia James (above) has sent a notice to Andrew Cuomo ordering him to preserve all records relevant to her sexual harassment investigation into him, it was revealed on Friday
Cuomo’s Senior Adviser Rich Azzopardi confirmed Friday the governor’s office received the preservation request from James
New York Attorney General Letitia James has also sent a notice to Cuomo ordering him to preserve all records relevant to her sexual harassment investigation into him as one accuser branded the governor ‘a textbook abuser’.
James’ office confirmed Friday a preservation request was sent to the office of the embattled governor this week to keep all records, files and electronic communications pertaining to the allegations.
Republicans and some state Democrats are calling for Cuomo to resign or for him to be impeached but many Democratic lawmakers are waiting for AG James’ investigation to conclude.
CUOMO’S STATEMENT ON SEX HARASSMENT SCANDAL
I want to address the recent allegations that have been made against me.
As you know the Attorney General is doing an independent review. I will fully cooperate with that review. The lawyers say I shouldn’t say anything when you have a pending review.
I understand that. I am a lawyer too.
But, I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this.
First, I fully support a woman’s right to come forward and I think it should be encouraged in every way.
I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional. And I truly and deeply apologize for it.
I feel awful about it and frankly I am embarrassed by it. That’s not easy to say. That’s the truth. This is what I want you to know and I want you to know this from me directly: I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never touched anyone inappropriately.
I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feeling uncomfortable.
I certainly never ever meant to offend anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever do that.
I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the Attorney General’s report before forming an opinion.
Get the facts please before forming an opinion.
I will fully cooperate with it.
Then you will have the facts. Make a decision when you have the facts.
I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation. I’ve learned an important lesson.
I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone I never intended it.
I will be the better for this experience.
However, more people rushed to voice criticism of Cuomo on Saturday as Liss and Hinton spoke out.
Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, for whom Liss now works, issued a statement voicing his support.
‘Ana has shown tremendous strength in speaking out about her experiences and the emotional trauma that resulted from her time working for the Governor,’ he said.
Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer also blasted people praising Cuomo as the ‘second coming’ in his response to the coronavirus pandemic.
‘I just want to make sure I have this right…. @NYGovCuomo created a hostile/toxic workplace for decades but the media is just hearing of this now after spending the last few years building him up as the second coming…gotcha,’ he wrote.
Fox News’ Tammy Bruce added: ‘It’s like potato chips, you don’t have just one.’
On Friday, Charlotte Bennett had revealed more about her allegations against Cuomo in an interview with ‘CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell’.
Bennett, 25, alleged in the interview that Cuomo ‘terrified’ her and repeatedly asked her to find him a girlfriend after telling her that she was old enough for him because he would date anyone ‘over 22’. He is 63.
‘He is a textbook abuser. He let his temper and his anger rule the office,’ Bennett said.
She claims Cuomo preyed on the fact she had previously been raped and that she thinks he was looking to take advantage of her vulnerabilities.
‘He said again and again, “you were raped and abused and assaulted”. I think it’s really strategic. Abusers look for vulnerabilities, previous traumas. The idea that maybe I’m more willing to accept behavior because I have a history of sexual violence. Perhaps I’m not as confident in myself because of my history.’
In his first statement about the claims, Cuomo said he was joking and that his playful demeanor had been misinterpreted. Bennett rejected that on Friday, saying: ‘I wasn’t laughing and he wasn’t laughing.’
She insisted she was telling the truth, adding: ‘It’s hard enough sharing this story – but it’s true.
‘I cant imagine that it would be like to sit here and tell you lies. I don’t know who would do that.
‘I couldn’t make this up. I liked my job, I really looked up to him, he was my mentor I really did see it that way.’
Bennett said she informed Cuomo’s chief of staff, Jill DesRosiers, about the interaction less than a week later. She said she was transferred to another job on the opposite side of the Capitol. At the end of June she also gave a statement to a special counsel for Cuomo.
Cuomo’s special counsel, Beth Garvey, has acknowledged that the complaint had been made and that Bennett was transferred as a result to a position in which she had already been interested.
Garvey said in a statement that Bennett’s allegations ‘did not include a claim of physical contact or inappropriate sexual conduct’ and Bennett ‘was consulted regarding the resolution, and expressed satisfaction and appreciation for the way in which it was handled.’
‘The determination reached based on the information Ms Bennett provided was that no further action was required which was consistent with Ms Bennett’s wishes,’ Garvey said.
Bennett said she decided not to push for any further action by the administration. She said she liked her new job and ‘wanted to move on.’
Bennett spoke out several days after Lindsey Boylan, now 36, accused Cuomo of sexual harassment. A third woman, Anna Ruch, 33, came forward on Monday.
Boylan claims Cuomo commented on her appearance inappropriately, kissed her without her consent and went out of his way to touch her on her lower back, arms and legs.
She also alleges that he once suggested a game of strip poker aboard his state-owned jet.
Ruch told The New York Times that Cuomo put his hands on her face and asked if he could kiss her just moments after they met at a September 2019 wedding in Manhattan.
A request for comment as made to Cuomo’s office on the claims of the new accusers but had not yet been returned.