Cuomo issues public apology in wake of scandal, says he won't resign

"It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it," he said.

March 3, 2021, 3:49 PM

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday addressed the sexual harassment scandal he's facing and apologized for his actions.

“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," Cuomo said. "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."

He continued, "I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain."

Cuomo pledged his full cooperation with the state attorney general’s investigation and urged New Yorkers to "wait for the facts to come out."

The 63-year-old Democrat is facing mounting calls to resign after three women accused him of inappropriate behavior. Lawmakers have also sought to check Cuomo’s power after officials began investigating how his administration handled nursing home COVID-19 death data.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at a vaccination site in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Feb. 22, 2021.
Seth Wenig/Pool via Reuters, FILE

When asked by a reporter if he'd bend to political pressure and resign, Cuomo said he would not.

"I wasn’t elected by politicians. I was elected by the people of New York. I’m not going to resign. They elected me," Cuomo stated.

Anna Ruch, 33, Lindsey Boylan, 36, and Charlotte Bennett, 25, have come forward over the past week to accuse the governor of unwanted advances between December 2016 and June 2020.

Cuomo said his apology Wednesday was directed at "the young woman who worked here," a reference to Bennett, a , and to the people of New York.

Cuomo said there are “hundreds” of photos out there of him making the same gesture he was seen making in a photo with Ruch.

The New York Times published Ruch's allegations against Cuomo on Monday in which she alleged Cuomo touched her bare back and face and "asked if he could kiss her." She also shared a photo from the time of the alleged incident with the paper.

He said Wednesday that gesture is his customary greeting to help make people feel comfortable.

“It doesn't matter my intent," Cuomo said. "What matters is whether anybody was offended by it. I could intend no offense but if they were offended by it, it was wrong."

Debra Katz, Bennett’s attorney, dismissed Cuomo’s statements as "full of falsehoods and inaccurate information," adding, "New Yorkers deserve better."

“The governor repeatedly said he had no idea he made anyone uncomfortable … Bennett reported his sexually harassing behavior immediately to his chief of staff and chief counsel. We are confident that they made him aware of her complaint,” she said in a statement.

The New York state assembly and state senate prepared a bill Tuesday to curb Cuomo's emergency powers granted during the pandemic. It will still allow Cuomo to extend existing emergency directives related to the pandemic, but repeal other emergency powers. The bill could be voted on by Friday.

ABC News' Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.

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