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April 17, 2021

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Harassment claims dog N.Y. Gov. Cuomo

Critics accuse state of undercounting virus deaths

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NEW YORK — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose televised coronavirus briefings won plaudits last spring, is now fighting for his political life amid accusations of sexual harassment, bullying and undercounting virus deaths connected to the state’s nursing homes.

Here’s a look at the some of challenges faced by the three-term Democrat:

• SEXUAL HARASSMENT: New York’s attorney general was empowered Monday to choose an independent investigator to probe allegations of sexual harassment by at least two women who worked for Cuomo.

Former economic development adviser Lindsey Boylan, 36, first accused Cuomo of harassment on Twitter in December, saying he had made inappropriate comments about her appearance.

Her initial, nonspecific accusations initially seemed barely to dent Cuomo’s reputation. But in a Feb. 24 Medium post she elaborated, saying Cuomo once kissed her on the lips without her consent and suggested on another occasion that the two of them should play strip poker.

Boylan said that during her more than three years in Cuomo’s administration, the governor “would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs” and commented that she looked like a woman he’d been reported to have dated.

Cuomo denied Boylan’s allegations.

Then, a second former staffer, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett, told The New York Times in a story posted online Saturday that Cuomo had asked inappropriate questions about her sex life, including whether she ever had sex with older men.

Bennett said Cuomo told her he was lonely since breaking up with TV food personality Sandra Lee and wanted a girlfriend. “I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett told the Times.

Cuomo released a statement Sunday saying some of his behavior with women “may have been insensitive or too personal” but suggesting that he meant no harm.

“I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that,” Cuomo said.

New York Attorney General Letitia James will choose an investigator to examine his behavior.

• NURSING HOMES: Last spring, as the coronavirus raged through New York’s nursing homes, some critics questioned whether the state had made things worse by telling homes they had to accept recovering COVID-19 patients discharged from hospitals.

Cuomo’s administration, and top hospital officials, have insisted the policy wasn’t a factor in the spread of the virus.

But in the face of criticism, it withheld information about the death toll among nursing home patients.

For months, the state’s count of nursing home dead excluded people who died after being transferred to hospitals.

An AP investigation last year concluded that the state could be understating nursing home deaths by as much as 65 percent. James, the attorney general, issued a report in late January estimating the state’s count was off by 50 percent.

The state’s official death toll in long-term care facilities now stands at over 15,000, up from the roughly 9,000 previously disclosed.

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