Charlotte Bennett is the second former aide to accuse New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment.
The governor has also been under increasing fire for his nursing home policies relating to COVID-19. However, Bennett’s story adds to a growing sexual harassment controversy surrounding the Democratic governor.
Bennett alleged to The New York Times that the governor made a series of personal remarks to her that made her uncomfortable. She said the governor never tried to physically touch her. Bennett is now director of operations at Primary Maternity Care.
Cuomo is divorced from Kerry Kennedy, the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, and his relationship with celebrity Sandra Lee ended in 2019.
Here’s what you need to know about Charlotte Bennett and her accusations:
1. Bennett Says Cuomo Asked Her Questions About Her Sex & Dating Life
Bennett gave her story to The New York Times. The Times reported that she alleges that Cuomo “asked her questions about her sex life, whether she was monogamous in her relationships and if she had sex with older men.”
“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett said to the Times. “And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”
She told the newspaper the alleged harassment occurred late spring 2020 as the governor was publicly focused on the COVID-19 pandemic.
In one incident, Bennett alleged to the Times that she was alone with Cuomo in his Capitol office on June 5 when he told her he was “open to relationships with women in their 20s,” and other remarks she “interpreted as clear overtures to a sexual relationship.”
Bennett claimed the governor stated he was lonely due to the pandemic and couldn’t “even hug anyone” before asking, “Who did I last hug?”
2. Bennett Worked as a Health Policy Adviser for Cuomo
According to her LinkedIn page, Bennett worked for Cuomo’s administration as an executive assistant and health-policy adviser.
She told The New York Times that she left the position in November 2020. She told the Times that she told Cuomo’s chief of staff Jill DesRosiers less than a week later about the encounter with Cuomo and was “transferred to another job, as a health policy adviser.”
She is 25 years old. Cuomo is 63. According to the Times, she started working for Cuomo in 2019, two years out of college, as a briefer. She became a senior briefer and executive assistant after being interviewed by the governor.
She once played soccer in middle school against one of Cuomo’s daughters and lived near his home in Westchester County, the Times reported.
On Twitter, Bennett describes herself as “Director of Ops @ Primary Maternity Care // advocate for womxn’s health, safety & justice // former public servant // dog mom // she/her.”
3. Cuomo Told The Times That He Was Mentoring Bennett But Promised an Independent Review
Cuomo responded in a statement to the Times. He said he thought he was mentoring Bennett and had “never made advances toward Ms. Bennett, nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate.”
Cuomo told the Times he was asking for an independent review, and people should wait for the results “before making any judgments.”
He referred to her being a sexual assault survivor and said she was a “hard-working and valued” staff member with “every right to speak out. He did not deny making the comments described by Bennett, according to The Times.
Cuomo issued a statement on February 28 saying, “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.”
Cuomo also said, “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.”
He added, “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.”
Cuomo also said, “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.”
4. Bennett Shared a Story by Lindsey Boylan, Who Also Accused Cuomo of Sexual Harassment
Bennett is not the first woman to accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment; the first was Lindsey Boylan, a former state economic development official. According to the Times, Cuomo has denied her accusations. She has accused him of an unwanted kiss.
Bennett shared Boylan’s story on Twitter when it broke. “For those wondering what it’s like to work for the Cuomo admin, read @LindseyBoylan’s story,” she wrote.
On February 24, 2021, Boylan wrote on Twitter, “Today I am telling my story. I never planned to share the details of my experience working in the Cuomo administration, but I am doing so now in hopes that it may make it easier for others to speak their own truth.” She shared an article she wrote on Medium.com.
In that article, Boylan accused the governor of saying, “Let’s play strip poker.”
“Governor Andrew Cuomo has created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected,” she wrote. “His inappropriate behavior toward women was an affirmation that he liked you, that you must be doing something right. He used intimidation to silence his critics. And if you dared to speak up, you would face consequences.”
She added: “Andrew Cuomo abused his power as Governor to sexually harass me, just as he had done with so many other women.”
5. Bennett Has Worked to Help Sexual Assault Survivors
An article by Hamilton University explained that “Charlotte Bennett ’17 hopes to accomplish two things at her internship this summer: help sexual assault survivors be heard and enforce victims’ rights. She is state legislative and policy intern at SurvJustice, a non-profit in Washington, D.C., that provides legal services to survivors of sexual violence.”
“As an advocate, I’m currently trying to support survivors of sexual violence through policy, legislation and research. SurvJustice has allowed me to continue my interest in helping students who seek justice,” Bennett explained in that article.
“More importantly, however, my own personal experiences have led me to a place where I believe this kind of advocacy work is especially important,” she continued. “My involvement in SurvJustice could help survivors who, like me, have felt that their voices were not heard or their rights were not protected under current Title IX policy and legislation.”
That article says she was a psychology and women’s studies major.
According to her LinkedIn page, she graduated with a 4.0 from John Jay High School and went to University College Dublin.
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