A third woman has stepped forward alleging sexual misconduct by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) after two of his former aides publicly accused the governor of workplace sexual harassment, including a forcible kiss.
A New York Times report published on Monday night details how the accuser, Anna Ruch, met Cuomo at a wedding in September 2019, where he put his hand on the small of her back within moments of being introduced to each other. Ruch, who was wearing an open-back dress, told the Times she “promptly removed his hand with my hand, which I would have thought was a clear enough indicator that I was not wanting him to touch me.”
When she did so, however, Cuomo called her “aggressive,” put his hands on her cheeks and asked “Can I kiss you?” according to Ruch.
“I was so confused and shocked and embarrassed,” she told the Times. “I turned my head away and didn’t have words in that moment.”
The report includes a photo of that moment, which had been taken by a friend of Ruch’s:
Ruch said she later asked a friend if the governor’s lips had touched her face while she was trying to dodge his kiss; the friend told her he had kissed her cheek.
Ruch blasted Cuomo’s “act of impunity” in her interview with the Times.
“I didn’t have a choice in his physical dominance over me at that moment,” she said. “And that’s what infuriates me.”
“And even with what I could do, removing his hand from my lower back, even doing that was not clear enough,” she added.
Ruch is the third woman to accuse Cuomo of sexual misconduct. The other two, Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett, were the governor’s former aides. They allege that Cuomo sexually harassed them in the workplace with inappropriate remarks, invasive questions about their sex lives, and attempted overtures for sexual affairs. Boylan says that the governor forcibly kissed her at one point.
In his official response to Boylan and Bennett’s accusations on Sunday, Cuomo conceded that his comments “may have been insensitive or too personal” and “made others feel in ways I never intended,” but he also tried to dismiss the allegations as misinterpretations of him merely “being playful” in the office.
“I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation,” he said. “To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.”
The governor insisted that he “never inappropriately touched anybody” and “never propositioned anybody.”
Boylan expressed solidarity with Ruch via Twitter on Monday night, saying she felt “nauseous thinking about Anna’s experience.”
“I am sending her love and light,” Cuomo’s former aid tweeted. “Charlotte and I are with you, Anna.”
Before the Times published Ruch’s account, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced on Monday that her office had begun an independent investigation into Boylan and Bennett’s allegations.
The string of accusations comes as Cuomo battles a different scandal over his administration’s misreporting of COVID-19 death counts in New York nursing homes, which dramatically undercounted the true death toll of the virus in his state last year.