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New York governor Andrew Cuomo defiant over harassment claims

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says he won’t resign in the wake of sexual misconduct accusations but has offered a fresh apology and vowed to “fully co-operate” with a review by the state’s attorney-general.

“I am not going to resign,” Mr Cuomo told a news conference on Wednesday (local time) after he offered an emotional apology for what he said was behavior that made “people feel uncomfortable”.

“I feel awful about it and frankly I am embarrassed by it,” said the Democratic governor, who is also contending with allegations his administration sought to downplay the number of elderly nursing home residents killed by COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

Mr Cuomo said his behavior toward the women who have accused him of misconduct was unintentional and maintained that he never touched anyone inappropriately.

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Even so, he acknowledged that it is “custom” for him to kiss and hug people when greeting them.

“I understand that sensitivities have changed and behaviour has changed and I get it, and I’m going to learn from it,” he said.

Three women, including two former aides, have come forward to say Mr Cuomo sexually harassed them or made inappropriate remarks.

Lindsey Boylan, who first came forward in December, said the unwanted advances included an unsolicited kiss on the lips in Mr Cuomo’s New York City office, which Mr Cuomo denied.

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Ms Boylan, a candidate for Manhattan borough president, dismissed the governor’s apology in a Twitter message on Wednesday.

“How can New Yorkers trust you @NYGovCuomo to lead our state if you “don’t know” when you’ve been inappropriate with your own staff?” she wrote.

The second woman to detail her experience is Charlotte Bennett, a former executive assistant and health policy adviser who told the New York Times in February Mr Cuomo peppered her with questions about her romantic life last year in what she viewed as an effort to have sex with her.

A third woman has also come forward, telling the New York Times the governor made unwanted advances and physical contact after meeting her at a wedding in 2019.

In response to Ms Bennett, Mr Cuomo released a statement on Sunday saying he sometimes playfully teased colleagues and was sorry if he made anyone uncomfortable, and his office granted the referral required by state law for New York Attorney-General Letitia James to investigate the complaints.

Debra Katz, the attorney who represented Christine Blasey Ford when she alleged Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her, is representing Bennett.

In a statement on Wednesday, Ms Katz said Cuomo’s apology was “full of falsehoods”.

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“I apologised several days ago, I apologise today, I will apologise tomorrow, I will apologise the day after,” Mr Cuomo said on Wednesday as he pleaded with the public “get the facts” before forming an opinion.

-AAP

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