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March 1, 2021, 10:50 p.m. EST

Cuomo faces calls for resignation after another woman alleges harassment

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By Associated Press

NEW YORK — Calls for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s resignation intensified late Monday after a third woman accused him of offensive behavior, saying he’d touched her face and back and asked to kiss her moments after they met at a wedding reception.

Anna Ruch  told The New York Times late Monday that she removed the Democratic governor’s hand from her back, but he said she seemed “aggressive,” promptly put his hands on her face and asked if he could kiss her.

“I was so confused and shocked and embarrassed,” Ruch, now 33, told the Times, which published a photo of the encounter showing the governor’s hands on her face. “I turned my head away and didn’t have words in that moment.”

Also see: ‘Andrew Cuomo is a colossal a—hole’: John Oliver dissects the New York governor’s recent scandals

An email seeking comment was sent to Ruch’s photography business. Her social media accounts were private. An email was also sent to Cuomo’s administration for comment.

The account from Ruch, who worked as a photographer at the White House during President Barack Obama’s second term, made her the second woman to accuse Cuomo of touching her without permission, and fueled broader calls for Cuomo to step down, including from some in his own party.

“The pattern of sexual harassment and predatory behavior by Governor Cuomo is unacceptable, and I believe the women coming forward,” New York City Councilman Antonio Reynoso tweeted in comments echoed elsewhere. “Governor Cuomo must resign.”

Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., and New York state Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas added their voices Monday night:

The latest accusation follows sexual harassment allegations against the governor from two women who had worked for his administration, accounts that led New York’s independently elected attorney general to say she was moving ahead with an investigation of his conduct.

Attorney General Letitia James received a letter Monday from Cuomo’s office authorizing her to take charge of the probe after a weekend of wrangling over who should investigate.

The letter enables James, also a Democrat, to deputize an outside law firm to conduct an inquiry with full subpoena power. The findings will be disclosed in a public report, the letter said.

Cuomo has maintained he had never inappropriately touched or propositioned anyone.

The former aide, Charlotte Bennett, rejected Cuomo’s attempted apology in which he excused his behavior as “playful,” saying Monday that the governor has “refused to acknowledge or take responsibility for his predatory behavior.”

Bennett, who alleges Cuomo quizzed her about her sex life and asked whether she would be open to a relationship with an older man, tweeted that “abusers — particularly those with tremendous amounts of power — are often repeat offenders who engage in manipulative tactics to diminish allegations, blame victims, deny wrongdoing and escape consequences.”

After news of Ruch’s account broke, Bennett  tweeted  to her: “His inappropriate and aggressive behavior cannot be justified or normalized. Thank you for your courage and strength.”

Cuomo’s support has plummeted amid dual crises. The harassment allegations come on the heels of accusations he covered up the true death toll of coronavirus on nursing home residents.

It’s quite a tumble for Cuomo, who had been widely celebrated for his leadership during the pandemic, particularly the daily news conferences where he sought to inform and reassure the public with charts, graphs and a machismo he dubbed “New York tough.”

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