Executive Assistant Who Accused Cuomo of Groping Says It Was ‘Not Normal’
Brittany Commisso, the executive assistant who accused Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of groping her in the Executive Mansion and filed a criminal …
Brittany Commisso, the executive assistant who accused Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of groping her in the Executive Mansion and filed a criminal complaint against him, forcefully rebutted the governor’s claims that she initiated or welcomed physical contact between them, in an interview that aired on Monday.
“I would never on my own get up and initiate a hug with the governor,” Ms. Commisso said in a joint interview with “CBS This Morning” and the Albany Times Union.
Ms. Commisso also criticized the governor for saying in his defense that he commonly hugs, kisses and touches people in an effort to put them at ease. His actions toward her, she said, made her uncomfortable.
“To me and the other women that he did this to, oh, it was not normal,” Ms. Commisso said. “It was not welcomed, and it was certainly not consensual.”
Ms. Commisso’s allegations that Mr. Cuomo groped her and grabbed her breast in the Executive Mansion last year are among the most serious made against him.
They were corroborated by the state attorney general’s report, which included multiple allegations of sexual harassment against Mr. Cuomo. The 165-page report, in which Ms. Commisso is referred to as “Executive Assistant #1,” found that Mr. Cuomo harassed 11 women, most of them current or former state employees.
The governor has denied all of the accusations and has strongly repudiated the allegations from Ms. Commisso.
“Let me be clear,” he said Tuesday. “That never happened.”
Mr. Cuomo’s lawyer, Rita Glavin, suggested in a news conference on Friday that Ms. Commisso was not alone with the governor at the Executive Mansion on the day in question and was sent there for different reasons than she has told investigators and journalists.
In an interview with CNN on Saturday, Ms. Glavin also said that she had evidence that Ms. Commisso had “potential motives” for her allegations, though she did not say what the evidence was.
Ms. Commisso, in her interview, described an escalating pattern of sexual behavior during her time working with the governor.
Around November 2019, when she started to assist Mr. Cuomo at the Executive Mansion, the governor would comment on her appearance, the attorney general’s report said. He told her she “looked good” for her age, suggested she show “some leg,” and seemed to take issue with her wearing her hair up, the report said.
During the interview, Ms. Commisso described in more detail an incident described in the report in which she said that Mr. Cuomo touched her inappropriately while the two were taking a photo.
Ms. Commisso said that she was at the Executive Mansion on Dec. 31, 2019 to help the governor with his upcoming State of the State address. After finishing her draft of the speech, she said, Mr. Cuomo suggested the two of them take a selfie.
The two stood next to each other, she said. “I then felt while taking the selfie, his hand go down my back onto my butt, and he started rubbing it. Not sliding it. Not, you know, quickly brushing over it — rubbing my butt.”
She said that Mr. Cuomo groped her again in November 2020, when she was helping him in his Executive Mansion office.
According to the report, one of Mr. Cuomo’s aides told Ms. Commisso to attend to the governor at his Executive Mansion office, where she said he pulled her into a close hug.
Ms. Commisso said in the interview that she was afraid a staffer might walk in and get the wrong idea and told Mr. Cuomo, “you’re going to get us in trouble.”
Understand the Scandals Challenging Gov. Cuomo’s Leadership
Multiple claims of sexual harassment. At least 11 women, including current and former members of his administration, have accused Mr. Cuomo of sexual harassment, unwanted advances or inappropriate behavior. He has refused to resign, and focus has turned to the State Assembly’s ongoing impeachment investigation.
Results of an independent investigation. An independent inquiry, overseen by the New York State attorney general, found that Mr. Cuomo had harassed the women, including current and former government workers, breaking state and federal laws. The report also found that he and aides retaliated against at least one woman who made her complaints public.
Nursing home death controversy. The Cuomo administration is also under fire for undercounting the number of nursing-home deaths caused by Covid-19 in the first half of 2020, a scandal that deepened after a Times investigation found that aides rewrote a health department report to hide the real number.
Efforts to obscure the death toll. Interviews and unearthed documents revealed in April that aides repeatedly overruled state health officials in releasing the true nursing home death toll for months. Several senior health officials have resigned in response to the governor’s overall handling of the pandemic, including the vaccine rollout.
Will Cuomo be impeached? The State Assembly opened an impeachment investigation in March. It has taken on new urgency with the release of the attorney general’s report, and its pace is now expected to pick up. Democrats in the State Legislature and New York’s congressional delegation, as well as President Biden, have called on Mr. Cuomo to resign, saying he has lost the ability to govern.
She said that Mr. Cuomo then slammed the door shut, and slipped his hand under her shirt and grabbed her breast.
The governor, she said, “shut the door so hard to the point where I thought for sure, someone downstairs must think if they heard that, ‘what is going on?’”
The attorney general’s report said that Ms. Commisso did not recall the exact date that she said Mr. Cuomo groped her but that it was around Nov. 16.
Ms. Glavin, during her news conference, sought to repudiate Ms. Commisso’s allegations by providing a detailed, alternate timeline of what happened that day, which she said was the only day Ms. Commisso was at the Executive Mansion in November.
She pointed in particular to emails and phone logs to argue that Mr. Cuomo was busy working and surrounded by top aides on that day. “The documentary evidence does not support what she said,” Ms. Glavin said.
In his defense, Mr. Cuomo told investigators that Ms. Commisso was the “initiator” of any hugs between them, the report said. He said that he went along with the hugs because he did not “want to make anyone feel awkward about anything.”
Ms. Commisso told CBS and The Times-Union that she thought the governor was lying.
She also said that she did not come forward publicly because she was fearful of retaliation. The report described in detail efforts to retaliate against another woman who had spoken out publicly about her allegation against the governor in December.
Mr. Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, was among those who spearheaded the effort, the report said. On Sunday night, Ms. DeRosa resigned from her position.