All eyes were on Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday when he made his first public, in-person appearance responding to sexual harassment allegations against him that emerged this past week. City & State compiled a transcript of his comments, along with notes providing additional context, history and reactions to the statements he made apologizing for his actions and urging New Yorkers to withhold judgment until an investigation into the allegations is completed.
This transcript has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Cuomo: I want to address the recent allegations that have been made against me. As you probably know, the attorney general is doing an independent review. And I will fully cooperate with that review. Now the lawyers say, I shouldn't say anything … until that review is over. I understand that. I'm a lawyer, too. But 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. 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. And that's not easy to say, but that's the truth. But this is what I want you to know, and I want you to know this from me directly. I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable. I never knew at the time, I was making anyone feel uncomfortable. And I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do. I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general's report before forming an opinion. 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. I also want you to know that I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation. For me, as well as other people. And I've learned an important lesson. I'm sorry. I'm sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone. I never intended it. And I will be better for this experience.
Q: First of all, I wonder if given the distractions of these two investigations, especially the one involving sexual harassment, you feel that you might want to step aside – that you should step aside – especially in negotiating the budget, which could be one of the most important budgets that the state has ever had to deal with. And my second question has to do with the pictures that have surfaced of you touching a female (unintelligible). The reason I'm asking the question is, I've also seen circulated pictures of you touching the faces of people all over this state, young and old, and I wonder what you make of those pictures.
Cuomo: You're right about the state budget. It is critically important. The state budget is going to turn the page to the rebuilding phase. We've been working very hard to get funding from Washington to fill the gap. And that has been going well. We have to see what we actually get, but we then have tremendous financial needs on top of that. People have to pay the rent, they need food, etc. You also have New York City, which is in a very precarious situation. It's teetering to use a word. Crime is way up. Homelessness is way up. Many people have left New York City – Hamptons, mid-Hudson Valley, other states. We have to get New York City functional again and safe again and viable again and we have to do that quickly. We have a new mayor that's going to be selected basically in June. I guess something could happen in November, but basically in June. And that work has to start right away, so yes the budget is very important.
Q: Should you step aside and let someone else handle it?
Cuomo: Having said that, I'm going to cooperate with the attorney general's investigation and do the budget. Remember we did a budget last year. In the spring, in the heat of COVID, where it was the most intense period of my life, of this government's life, of this state's life. And we did both, and we'll do both here. On the pictures. Marsha, I understand the opinion of and feelings of Ms. (unintelligible). And you are right, you can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people: women, men, children, etc. You can go find hundreds of pictures of me, kissing people, men, women. It is my usual and customary way of greeting. You know that because you've watched me for, let's just say more years than we can remember. By the way, it was my father's way of greeting people. You're the governor of the state. You want people to feel comfortable. You want to reach out to them. I do it. I kiss and hug legislators. I was in an event in Queens the other day, hugged the pastors and the Assembly members were there. So that is my way to do that. However, what I also understand is, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter my intent. What matters is, if anybody was offended by it. And I could intend no offense. But if they were offended by it, then it was wrong. And if they were offended by it, I apologize. And if they were hurt by it, I apologize. And if they felt pain from it. I apologize, I apologize. I did not intend it. I didn't mean it that way. But, if that's how they felt, that's all that matters, and I apologize.
Q: I just wanted to ask you, with all these calls in the last couple of days, calling for your resignation from some Democrats … Is this your way of saying, I'm certainly not resigning?
Cuomo: Look, some politicians will always play politics, that's the nature of the beast. I don't think today's the day for politics. I wasn't elected by politicians. I was elected by the people of the state of New York. I'm not going to resign. I work for the people of the state of New York. They elected me, and I'm going to serve the people of the state of New York and by the way we have a full plate. We have COVID, we have recovery, we have rebuilding, we have a teetering New York City. We have a terrible financial picture. We have to do vaccines. So no. I'm going to do the job that people of the state elected me to do.
Q: Why did it take a week for you to go before the cameras when people have noted your absence for so many days? My second question is, what assurances can you provide New Yorkers that there are not other accusers?
I apologized several days ago. I apologized today. I will apologize tomorrow. I will apologize the day after. And I want New Yorkers to understand because this is more – the facts will come out in the attorney general's review. But I want them to understand the emotion, because it's really, for me, it's as much about the emotion. I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable. I never ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone pain. I feel terrible that these people have felt uncomfortable, felt hurt, felt pain from the interactions. And I'm embarrassed by it, and I feel bad from it. I'm not in this business to make people feel uncomfortable. I'm here to help them, that's the essence of what I do. I do not believe I have ever done anything in my public career that I am ashamed of. I didn't know I was making her uncomfortable at the time. I feel badly that I did. And I'm gonna learn from it, Marsha asked me about, you know – my usual custom is to kiss and to hug and make that gesture. I understand that sensitivities have changed, and behavior has changed. And I get it, and I'm going to learn from it.
Q: If a member of your administration had done what you are currently accused of and have admitted to, what would you tell them and what would be a satisfactory disposition for you?
Cuomo: Let's be clear on the facts first. We haven't gotten the facts. Let the attorney general, do a review and let's get the facts. And that's what I said in my statement to New Yorkers. I'm a former attorney general. I've been through the situation too many times where everybody has an opinion because they've read this, they read this and then, all of a sudden, the facts come out and it's a different situation. So wait for the facts before you form an opinion. And as I said, my, my behavior here. I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable. And if I ever did make people feel uncomfortable, which I now understand that I have, I apologize for it. But then let the attorney general's office actually review the facts.
Q: You apologized several times this afternoon. Who are you apologizing to?
Cuomo: I was apologizing to the young woman who worked here, who said that I made her feel uncomfortable in the workplace.
Q: Were you also speaking to New Yorkers?
Cuomo: To New York. I am saying that I'm embarrassed by what happened. I wear a pin that says, pride, integrity, performance. That's what it says on the pin, you can't read it: pride, integrity, performance. So I'm embarrassed that someone felt that way, in my administration. I'm embarrassed and hurt and I apologize that somebody who interacted with me felt that way. Again, I didn't know at the time, I was making her feel uncomfortable. I never meant to but that doesn't matter if the person feels uncomfortable, if a person feels pain, if a person is offended. I feel very badly about that and I apologize for it. There's no, but, you know. It's, I'm sorry.
Q: Have you yourself taken the sexual harassment training required by New York that all employers are to give to their employees?
Cuomo: The short answer is yes.
The governor's office did not respond to a request for comment for this story by publication time.
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