Charlotte Bennett, one of the women who accused New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, says that the State Assembly took “the coward’s way out” by ending the impeachment investigation following Cuomo’s recent resignation.
An aide in Cuomo’s administration, Charlotte Bennett was an executive assistant and health policy adviser who left last November, later telling The New York Times this past February about Cuomo’s uncomfortable questions regarding her sex life outside of the office.
“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett said at the time. “And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”
Bennett was just one of the 11 women included in State Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation, which concluded that Governor Cuomo had harassed his staff through inappropriate and offensive sexual comments, and unwelcome physical advances.
Governor Cuomo responded by saying that, “They read into comments that I made and drew inferences that I never meant,” in a live recorded statement. “They ascribe motives I never had. And simply put, they heard things that I just didn’t say.”
Following Cuomo’s resignation, New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced on Friday that the investigation would be suspended, since its primary objective was simply to determine if the Governor should remain in office. He also added that he believed it was not in his constitutional power to impeach governors who were no longer in a position of power.
In New York State legislative history, there is currently no precedent for impeaching a former governor. The only New York state governor to ever be impeached in office was over 100 years ago, when Governor William Sulzer was removed from office in 1913 for campaign contribution fraud.
Charlotte Bennett responded on Twitter this past Sunday, in an upset statement that called the Speaker’s decision, a “message to New Yorkers,” that, “the New York State Assembly thinks corruption, sexual harassment/assault and retaliation are acceptable.”
“We took the enormous risk of speaking out about the abuse and harassment we experienced, and the AG’s independent investigation that followed corroborated our allegations and determined that the Governor broke state and federal law,” Bennett’s statement continued. “After spending millions of taxpayer dollars and issuing lofty statements, he’s failed to lift a finger to make clear that New York rejects Cuomo’s behavior.”
The issue, however, extends even beyond the Governor’s sexual harassment allegations, as part of the Attorney General’s investigation was also looking into findings that Cuomo had attempted to hide the true number of nursing home deaths during the pandemic in an effort to lower the reported death toll in New York.
The decision to suspend the investigation was also met with disapproval from members within the State Assembly across both democrats and republicans. Dan Quart, a Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee, stated that, “At the very least, the committee should have fully completed its investigation, generated a report detailing all aspects of the governor’s misconduct and violations of state law, and made that report public.”
Will Barclay, the Republican minority leader, echoed Quart by saying that, “mountains of evidence and months of work will now be hidden from the public by this disappointing, tone-deaf decision.”
“How disturbing,” Charlotte Bennett’s statement concluded. “The Speaker has greatly miscalculated the commitment New Yorkers have to justice, accountability, and transparency.”
Refusing to continue with impeachment hearings also means that Cuomo will not be barred from running again, should the disgraced Governor ever choose to re-enter politics in the future. Cuomo has not released a statement since his official resignation.