NEW YORK (AP) - Calls for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign are intensifying now that a third woman has accused him of offensive behavior.
Anna Ruch told The New York Times on Monday that Cuomo touched her back and face and asked if he could kiss her moments after they met at a wedding in 2019. Her account prompted tweets of support from two former Cuomo aides who say he sexually harassed them.
The governor has denied wrongdoing and said his actions were misinterpreted.
The state's attorney general is hiring a law firm to investigate his conduct.
Below is the statement released by Cuomo on Feb. 28:
"Questions have been raised about some of my past interactions with people in the office.
"I never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm. I spend most of my life at work and colleagues are often also personal friends.
"At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I do, on occasion, tease people in what I think is a good natured way. I do it in public and in private. You have seen me do it at briefings hundreds of times. I have teased people about their personal lives, their relationships, about getting married or not getting married. I mean no offense and only attempt to add some levity and banter to what is a very serious business.
"I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.
"To be clear I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but these are allegations that New Yorkers deserve answers to.
"That's why I have asked for an outside, independent review that looks at these allegations.
"Separately, my office has heard anecdotally that some people have reached out to Ms. Bennett to express displeasure about her coming forward. My message to anyone doing that is you have misjudged what matters to me and my administration and you should stop now - period."
Cuomo's response is being viewed as a tone-deaf “faux-pology” by critics and victim's advocates.
Northwestern University law professor Deborah Tuerkheimer says Cuomo in his statement ignores the power imbalance at play.
Meanwhile, New York Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou calls sexual harassment at the statehouse rampant.