ALBANY — An aide in the governor's office on Friday accused Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of sexual harassment, saying he ogled her body, made suggestive remarks and commented on her beauty in Italian, according to a published report.
Alyssa McGrath, listed in the state payroll as an administrative assistant in Cuomo’s office, told The New York Times that the governor asked questions about her lack of a wedding ring and her personal life, and commented on her necklace as she said he gazed down her blouse.
She said the governor’s actions didn’t include sexual contact, but did create a difficult work environment for her based on her gender and looks. She said Cuomo mixed business with unwanted attention and also was authoritative and could be physically imposing to staff.
Cuomo’s attorney, Rita Glavin, said the governor’s behavior "may be old-fashioned," but Cuomo "has made clear that he has never made inappropriate advances or inappropriately touched anyone."
"The governor has greeted men and women with hugs and a kiss on the cheek, forehead, or hand. Yes, he has posed for photographs with his arm around them. Yes, he uses Italian phrases like, ‘Ciao bella'," which means hello, beautiful.
McGrath’s attorney called the statement, which mirrors Cuomo’s past comments, "deflections" and "not credible."
"This was not just friendly banter," said McGrath’s attorney, Cuti Hecker Wang, in a statement to Newsday. "Ms. McGrath understands the common phrase ‘ciao Bella.’ As she herself says: ‘I would not call my parents to find out what that phrase means. I know what that phrase means.’"
McGrath follows several other accusations by women, most of whom had previously worked for him, and Cuomo has disputed their versions of past meetings.
"The staff is shocked," one source close to the executive chamber told Newsday. "She’s demure, professional, and highly regarded … she does her work."
The sexual harassment accusations against Cuomo are being investigated by attorneys overseen by state Attorney General Letitia James. The Assembly’s Democratic majority is also investigating the claims as part of an impeachment inquiry.
Cuomo, 63, has refused to resign, despite calls for him to quit by most top Democrats from Washington to Albany. President Joe Biden, an important ally of Cuomo’s, has said that if the investigations prove Cuomo committed sexual harassment, he should resign.
More than a half-dozen women have accused Cuomo of sexual harassment. The allegations against Cuomo include a former aide who said Cuomo gave her an unwanted kiss and another former staffer who said he made unwanted advances and said he was open to relationships with younger women. A third former aide said Cuomo kissed her hand and cheek in flirtatious behavior at work.
A fourth woman, who didn’t work for Cuomo, said the governor at a wedding touched her bare back and cupped her face in attempt to kiss her. Another former aide to Cuomo when he served as secretary of housing and urban development in the Clinton administration said he forced an unwanted hug in a hotel room. And the Albany Times Union reported based on an unnamed source that a sixth woman has said Cuomo groped her in the governor’s mansion last year.