Women's groups slam Gov. Cuomo's statement on sexual harassment claims as coming up short
Once an advocate for the #MeToo movement, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is being slammed by women's groups as the state attorney general opens an investigation into sexual harassment claims against him.
Activists are calling out the governor, saying the statement on the matter that he issued Sunday doesn't count as an apology.
In 2018, Cuomo called on then-Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to resign amid abuse allegations, and proclaimed his support for the #MeToo Movement.
"I have tremendous accolades for the women who came forward, that is the essence of the #MeToo Movement," he said.
A year later, Cuomo signed a law to increase protections against sexual harassment in the workplace.
But now, the third-term governor is embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal of his own following accusations by two former female staffers. The New York Times also reported Monday that a third woman came forward and accused Cuomo of an unwanted advance at a 2019 wedding reception.
Under escalating pressure, Cuomo acknowledged for the first time Sunday that some of his comments in the workplace "may have been insensitive or too personal" and said he was "truly sorry" to those who might have mistook it for "unwanted flirtation." Cuomo denied allegations of inappropriate touching.
But victims of sexual harassment and their advocates say Cuomo's comments do not constitute an apology.
"It's important that when someone apologizes, that their apology has a full intended meaning and it's not just 'I'm sorry my words offended you,' it's more about I'm sorry I did this, right?" says Keith Scott, with Safe Center LI.
D.J. Rosenbaum of North Merrick says she's been a victim of sexual harassment several times, including one incident in the late 1980s.
"Anytime I spoke to this senior person in my office, he didn't look here. He looked at my breasts, every time. He thought it was funny," says Rosenbaum.
Victims of sexual harassment and their advocates say words matter, especially when they make others uncomfortable, and particularly when you are in a position of power.
"Sexual harassment had everything to do with power and authority and control, and very little to do with accidental joking and a slip of the tongue," says Rosenbaum.
"Just because someone meant something in a flirty way or meant something in a friendly way, doesn't mean that it's perceived that way," says Scott.