A Democrat who was once hailed as the anti-Donald Trump has been hit with a second sexual harassment claim from a former aide.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been hit with a second sexual harassment accusation claim, with another former aide now levelling serious allegations at the Democrat.
Charlotte Bennett, 25, was an executive assistant and health policy Adviser in the Cuomo administration up until November last year.
Ms Bennett alleged she was alone in the office of the governor when he started asking her questions about her personal life, including asking her thoughts on significant age gaps in relationships.
The 25-year-old also claimed Mr Cuomo, who is 65, revealed he was open to relationships with women in their 20s and complained about being lonely during the pandemic.
Ms Bennett alleged the governor also complained about not being able to hug anyone because of the pandemic, before asking the 25-year-old who she last hugged.
She said she tried to dodge the question by saying she missed hugging her parents, but claims Mr Cuomo insisted to know the last time she “really hugged somebody”.
Ms Bennett said her former boss never tried to touch her but claims the whole interaction made her “uncomfortable and scared”.
“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” she told The New York Times.
“And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”
Ms Bennet claims she reported the interaction with Mr Cuomo to his chief of staff and was transferred to a job in a different office less than a week later.
She said she decided not to push for an investigation because she was happy with her new role and wanted to “move on”.
In a statement to The New York Times, Mr Cuomo claimed he “never made advances toward Ms Bennett, nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate”.
The governor said he had been acting as a mentor to Ms Bennett, adding he had tried to be supportive after she opened up to him about being a sexual assault survivor.
“The last thing I would ever have wanted was to make her feel any of the things that are being reported,” he told the publication.
He said he has requested an independent review of the matter and would provide no further comment until that review was complete.
It comes after Lindsey Boylan, a former deputy secretary for economic development in the Cuomo administration and former special adviser to Mr Cuomo himself, made similar sexual harassment allegations.
Ms Boylan first accused Mr Cuomo of harassing her in December, though she provided no details and declined to speak to reporters.
Last week she published a lengthy account of her time working for him on Medium.
“Governor Andrew Cuomo has created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected,” Ms Boylan wrote.
“His inappropriate behaviour towards women was an affirmation that he liked you, that you must be doing something right. He used intimidation to silence his critics. And if you dared to speak up, you would face consequences.
“Andrew Cuomo abused his power as Governor to sexually harass me, just he had done with so many other women.
“Last week, Assemblyman Ron Kim spoke out publicly about the intimidation and abuse he has faced from Governor Cuomo and his aides.
“There are many more of us, but most are too afraid to speak up. I’m compelled to tell my story because no woman should feel forced to hide their experiences of workplace intimidation, harassment and humiliation.”
Ms Boylan described several alleged encounters involving Mr Cuomo. The first came soon after their first meeting in January of 2016.
“My boss soon informed me that the Governor had a ‘crush’ on me. It was an uncomfortable but all-too-familiar feeling: The struggle to be taken seriously by a powerful man who tied my worth to my body and my appearance,” she said.
“Stephanie Benton, director of the Governor’s offices, told me in an email on December 14, 2016 that the Governor suggested I look up images of Lisa Shields – his rumoured former girlfriend – because ‘we could be sisters’ and I was ‘the better looking sister’.
“The Governor began calling me ‘Lisa’ in front of colleagues. It was degrading.”
Ms Boylan said she complained to her friends that Mr Cuomo would “go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs”.
The former aide claimed Mr Cuomo allegedly kissed her without consent during a one-on-one meeting in 2018
Mr Cuomo’s office has denied the sexual assault claims, labelling them “quite simply false”.
– With Sam Clench