A third woman came forward Monday to accuse New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, alleging that he aggressively hit on her at a wedding reception in September 2019.
Anna Ruch told the New York Times Monday that after complimenting Cuomo for a toast he gave to her friends who were getting married, he put his hand on her bare back and later asked to kiss her. The encounter was captured in a photograph, which shows Cuomo grabbing Ruch’s bewildered, worried face in his hands.
Ruch’s allegation follows workplace sexual harassment claims made by two other women, Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett. The three allegations of sexual harassment and unwanted advances, as well as allegations that the Cuomo administration covered up New York nursing home deaths during the COVID pandemic, have led to a wave of calls for his resignation.
Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment concerning Ruch’s accusation, but his office referred the New York Times to a statement he released on Sunday after Bennett’s allegations. In it, Cuomo denied that he ever “inappropriately touched anybody” or “propositioned anyone.”
“I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation,” Cuomo said in the statement. “To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.”
After initially resisting calls for a fully independent investigation, Cuomo is also facing a probe led by New York Attorney General Tish James. Investigators will have subpoena powers and the ability to compel witnesses including Cuomo to testify, according to the New York Times.
Here is what we know about the women who’ve accused Cuomo of harassment, details of their allegations, and how New York’s political world is reacting.
Lindsey Boylan, Former Special Adviser to Cuomo
Boylan was a former top aide to Cuomo, serving as deputy secretary of economic development and special adviser when she resigned from his administration in 2018.
She initially accused Cuomo of sexual harassment in a series of December tweets but didn’t elaborate on the nature of the allegations at the time.
On February 24, Boylan published a post on Medium detailing her allegations. Among her most shocking claims were that Cuomo joked that they “should play strip poker,” repeated instances of unwanted touching, and that he kissed her without her consent following a one-on-one meeting.
“I was in shock, but I kept walking,” she wrote about her immediate reaction to the kiss. “The idea that someone might think I held my high-ranking position because of the Governor’s ‘crush’ on me was more demeaning than the kiss itself.”
Boylan wrote that Cuomo “has created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected.”
Charlotte Bennett, Former Executive Assistant and Health Policy Adviser
Bennett, 25, told the New York Times on February 27 that Cuomo had sexually harassed her last spring, as the coronavirus pandemic’s first wave was raging through New York.
Bennett told the Times that during one June 5 incident where she was alone with Cuomo, the governor asked her whether she thought age made a difference in relationships and said he was “fine with anyone above the age of 22,” referring to romantic partners. Cuomo is 63 years old. Bennett played middle-school soccer against one of Cuomo’s daughters, the Times reported
During that meeting, Cuomo allegedly asked her: “Who did I last hug?” After Bennett tried to dodge the question, she told the Times, she says Cuomo then said: “No, I mean like really hugged somebody?”
“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett told the Times. “And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”
That wasn’t the first incident, however. In May, Bennett told the Times, she had mentioned to Cuomo that she was going to give a speech to college students about being a sexual assault survivor, and that Cuomo wouldn’t drop the topic.
“The way he was repeating, ‘You were raped and abused and attacked and assaulted and betrayed,’ over and over again while looking me directly in the eyes was something out of a horror movie,” she texted a friend at the time. “It was like he was testing me.”
After Bennett disclosed the interaction to Cuomo’s chief of staff Jill DesRosiers, she was transferred to a job as a health policy aide in a different part of the administration. She later left state government altogether and now lives in another state.
“His presence was suffocating,” Bennett said. “I was thinking that I could recover and have distance but that is so naïve.”
Anna Ruch, Former White House Photographer
Ruch, 33, worked in the White House of former President Barack Obama as a photographer, and later on the campaign of President Joe Biden. After complimenting Cuomo after a toast he gave to her friends at the wedding, Cuomo put his hand on the small of her back, she told the Times.
“I promptly removed his hand with my hand, which I would have thought was a clear enough indicator that I was not wanting him to touch me,” Ruch told the Times. Instead, Cuomo called her “aggressive” and put his hands on her face and asked: “Can I kiss you?”
A friend captured a picture of the uncomfortable incident on Ruch’s cell phone, which she shared with the Times. Ruch told the Times that the incident left her “confused and shocked and embarrassed,” and that she “didn’t have words in that moment.”
After Ruch came forward, both Boylan and Bennett expressed solidarity with her. “Anna — I hear you, I see you. I’m so sorry,” Bennett tweeted. “His inappropriate and aggressive behavior cannot be justified or normalized.”
“This doesn’t make me feel validated. It makes me feel sick. I feel nauseous thinking about Anna’s experience,” Boylan tweeted. “Charlotte and I are with you, Anna.”
“It’s the act of impunity that strikes me,” Ruch told the Times. “I didn’t have a choice in that matter. I didn’t have a choice in his physical dominance over me at that moment. And that’s what infuriates me. And even with what I could do, removing his hand from my lower back, even doing that was not clear enough.”
New York Politicians Are Turning on Cuomo
The dual scandal of multiple sexual harassment allegations, as well as allegations of covering-up of nursing home deaths during the COVID pandemic, has presented the biggest threat to Cuomo in his 10-plus years as New York governor.
On Monday, U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, a Democrat from Long Island, publicly called for him to step down.
“The time has come. The Governor must resign,” Rice tweeted Monday after Ruch came forward with her allegations.
In addition to Rice, at least nine New York Democratic legislators have called on Cuomo to resign as of this morning, based on a tally by NBC New York.
"Those of us who hold positions in public government are given a responsibility to serve as examples to the communities we represent," Assemblymember Victor Pichardo Jr. said in a Tuesday statement. "At this point, I see no way the Governor can live up to the responsibility."
The Working Families Party also called on Cuomo to leave office.
“We are calling on Governor Cuomo to resign immediately because he is unfit to serve the people of New York,” state director Sochie Nnaemeka said in a statement on Tuesday.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, with whom Cuomo has often been at odds, called on Cuomo to resign Monday if the allegations were proven true, even before Ruch’s account became public.
“These are disqualifying realities,” de Blasio said. “If these allegations are proven, there’s just no way he can govern.”
The allegations have also become an issue in the race to succeed de Blasio as mayor. NYC comptroller Scott Stringer joined fellow candidates Dianne Morales and Maya Wiley in calling on Cuomo to step down Monday, after Bennett’s accusations became public. Morales has called for impeachment.
“Governor Cuomo has created a toxic environment in Albany. His actions have had real, devastating repercussions for New Yorkers,” she said. “Governor Cuomo should not be allowed to ruin any more lives.”