A former aide says Gov. Cuomo was “trying to sleep with me” during a one-on-one meeting in his Albany office last year — with the 25-year-old adding that “he implied to me that I was old enough for him and he was lonely.”
Charlotte Bennett made the stunning comments in an interview that aired Thursday night on the “CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell,” saying that her then-boss Cuomo, now 63, asked probing questions about her sex life when they were alone together on June 5.
“I thought, he’s trying to sleep with me. The governor’s trying to sleep with me and I’m deeply uncomfortable and I have to get out of this room as soon as possible,” Bennett said.
“What made you think he was trying to sleep with you?” O’Donnell asked.
“Without explicitly saying it, he — he implied to me that I was old enough for him and he was lonely,” Bennett said.
A second portion of the interview is set to air Friday on “CBS This Morning,” and O’Donnell previewed some of that during an appearance on the local CBS-2 News at 5.
O’Donnell said that Bennett “says Gov. Cuomo is, in her words, a textbook abuser” and “even uses words like that she was groomed for this relationship.”
At one point in Thursday’s segment, O’Donnell asked Bennett if Cuomo was likely “emboldened” by all the “national attention” he got from his televised coronavirus briefings.
“Absolutely. I think he felt like he was untouchable in a lot of ways,” she answered.
Bennett also told O’Donnell she had no doubt about Cuomo’s motives.
“Do you believe he was propositioning you?” O’Donnell asked.
“Yes,” Bennett answered.
“For what?” O’Donnell asked.
“Sex,” Bennett replied.
Bennett said Cuomo’s questions about her sex life included asking “if age difference mattered.”
“He also explained that he was fine with anyone over 22,” she added.
The disturbing discussion allegedly took place after Bennett, then an executive assistant to the governor, was called into Cuomo’s office to take dictation and he told her to turn off the recorder.
“And then he explains at that point that he is looking for a girlfriend,” she said.
“He’s lonely. He’s tired.”
During an earlier, May 15 conversation, Bennett recalled, Cuomo seemed fixated on her history of surviving sexual assault.
“So he goes, ‘You were raped. You were raped. You were raped and abused and assaulted,’” she said.
Cuomo also brought the subject up again on June 5, Bennett said.
“He asked if I had trouble enjoying being with someone because of my trauma,” she said.
When O’Donnell said that “seems highly inappropriate, Bennett agreed.
“Yeah. The governor asked me if I was sensitive to intimacy,” she said.
“In his office?” O’Donnell asked.
“Yes. During the workday,” Bennett said.
O’Donnell told Bennett, “People will watch this and say, ‘Why didn’t you get up and leave?’”
”t didn’t feel like I had a choice,” she said.
Bennett rejected the notion that she “misinterpreted” what Cuomo was saying to her, saying that “I understood him loud and clear. It just didn’t go the way he planned.”
Bennett — one of three women who’ve made misconduct allegations against Cuomo — also rejected his qualified apologies during a news conference on Wednesday, when he claimed that “I never knew at the time I was making anyone feel uncomfortable.”
“It’s not an apology,” she said.
“It’s not an issue of my feelings. It’s an issue of his actions. The fact is that he was sexually harassing me and he has not apologized for sexually harassing me. And he can’t even use my name.”
The last remark was a reference to Cuomo’s response when a reporter pressed him about to whom exactly he was apologizing.
Cuomo said, “the young woman who worked here, who said that I made her feel uncomfortable in the workplace.”
Cuomo and his press secretary have repeatedly denied other sexual harassment accusations by another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, 36, now a Democratic candidate for Manhattan borough president.
The allegations by Bennett, Boylan and a third woman — Anna Ruch, 33, who says Cuomo grabbed her face and kissed her at a Manhattan wedding reception in 2019 — are the subject of a pending probe by an independent law firm to be selected by Attorney General Letitia James.
When asked for comment about Bennett’s TV interview, Cuomo’s office emailed excerpts of his Wednesday remarks, including repeated references to the looming investigation.
“I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion,” he said.
“Get the facts please before forming an opinion and the attorney general is doing that review. I will fully cooperate with it and then you will have the facts and make a decision when you know the facts. “
Cuomo’s office also provided a Saturday statement from special counsel and senior adviser Beth Garvey, who said, “Ms. Bennett’s concerns were treated with sensitivity and respect and in accordance with applicable law and policy.”
That statement also included the premature assertion that former Manhattan federal Judge Barbara Jones “will lead the review” of the allegations against Cuomo.