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Cuomo accuser calls for governor's impeachment: "We have a responsibility to act"

Cuomo accuser reacts to results of sexual harassment probe
Extended interview: Cuomo accuser Charlotte Bennett reacts to results of sexual harassment probe 08:24

Charlotte Bennett, one of 11 women accusing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual misconduct, demanded his resignation Tuesday after an independent investigation found that he sexually harassed multiple women. In an exclusive interview with "CBS Evening News," Bennett urged officials to begin impeachment proceedings if Cuomo refuses to step down. 

"He's trying to justify himself by making me out to be someone who can't tell the difference between sexual harassment and mentorship and I think that's absolutely absurd," Bennett told "CBS Evening News" anchor and managing editor Norah O'Donnell. 

"We have a report. We have the facts. The governor broke federal and state law when he sexually harassed me and current and former staffers — and if he's not willing to step down, then we have a responsibility to act and impeach him."

CBS News Exclusive: Cuomo accuser on governor denying sexual harassment 03:16

While detailing the findings of the investigation in a news conference earlier Tuesday, New York Attorney General Letitia James said Cuomo sexually harassed former staffers as well as women who did not work for his administration, in violation of federal and state law.

"I am inspired by the women who came forward, but more importantly I believe them, and I thank them for their bravery," James said. 

Bennett said she felt vindicated by the investigation's findings, describing the day as "so validating and really emotional."

Cuomo denied sexually harassing anyone in a recorded video statement on Tuesday. 

"The facts are much different than what has been portrayed," he said. "I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances."

The governor also showed a photo montage of him kissing and embracing other people. 

"I do kiss people on the forehead. I do kiss people on the cheek. I do kiss people on the hand," he said. But he denied that his actions were sexual. 

Bennett said she felt like the governor was "absolutely" gaslighting her when, as part of his statement, he said he asked her questions that he doesn't normally ask people because she was a survivor of sexual assault. 

"He sexually harassed me. I am not confused. It is not confusing. I am living in reality, and it's sad to see that he's not," she said. 

Bennett also said she didn't believe Cuomo's statement that his actions were the result of a generational misunderstanding. "Publicly, he would rather play dumb. Privately, he knows that he sexually harassed staffers. And I think it's easier to explain his behavior publicly by saying, 'There was some misunderstanding,'" she said. 

"Accepting responsibility means stepping down," she continued. "So I don't believe him, and I don't want an apology. It's not necessary. It's fake. And his propaganda video was not only uncomfortable and inappropriate, but downright weird and unnecessary." 

In an interview with "CBS Evening News" in March, Bennett detailed the instances of alleged sexual harassment she experienced. She said Cuomo made inappropriate comments to her, including asking her if her experience with sexual assault had led her to have trouble with intimacy. He also allegedly told her he was comfortable dating young women and was looking for a girlfriend, and asked about her sexual relationships, Bennett said. 

Extended interview with Cuomo accuser Charlotte Bennett 17:24

Bennett, who worked as Cuomo's executive assistant and as a health policy adviser, said she felt forced to answer the intimate questions because Cuomo was in a position of power. 

"I thought, 'He's trying to sleep with me. The governor's trying to sleep with me. And I'm deeply uncomfortable and I have to get out of this room as soon as possible,'" Bennett said during the March interview

Cuomo denied the allegations at the time and said he was being playful. In his Tuesday statement, he addressed Bennett directly, stating that he "heard Charlotte and her lawyer, and understand what they are saying," but claiming they are drawing inferences that he never meant and ascribing motives he never had. "Simply put, they heard things I just did not say," the governor said.

Nevertheless, Cuomo also apologized to Bennett for having "brought my personal experience into the workplace." 

"Charlotte, I want you to know that I am truly and deeply sorry," Cuomo said. "I brought my personal experience into the workplace, and I shouldn't have done that. I was trying to help. Obviously I didn't. I am even more sorry that I further complicated the situation. My goal was the exact opposite. I wish nothing but good for you and for all survivors of sexual assault." 

When asked if she believed Cuomo's statement that he was only trying to help her, Bennett responded, "No. His intention was trying to sleep with me."

Bennett also said Cuomo's denials send a "dangerous" message about the importance of fighting harassment. 

"I think his comments are dangerous. I think it sends a message to New Yorkers that sexual harassment is not important, that it is not dangerous. It is. It is important. And it's also just plain illegal."

Cuomo is facing pressure from top Democrats, including President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to step down. Cuomo has said he won't resign. 

New York Assembly speaker Carl Heastie also commented on the report, stating that his chamber will move "expeditiously" in an impeachment inquiry once they have the relevant documents.

"After our conference this afternoon to discuss the Attorney General's report concerning sexual harassment allegations against Governor Cuomo, it is abundantly clear to me that the Governor has lost the confidence of the Assembly Democratic majority and that he can no longer remain in office," Heastie said in a statement.

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