A contrite but gently defiant Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Wednesday that he will not accede to calls for his resignation in the wake of accusations of sexual harassment.
The governor spoke at length about three women's allegations of inappropriate behavior in remarks to the press during a regular update on the coronavirus pandemic.
"Some politicians will always play politics," the governor said in response to a reporter's question. "I don't think today is a day for politics. I wasn't elected by politicians, I was elected by the people of State of New York. I'm not going to resign. I am . . . going to serve the people of the State of New York. And by the way, we have a full plate. . . . So no, I'm going to do the job the people of the state elected me to do."
The exchange followed the governor's extensive remarks on allegations of inappropriate touching and remarks.
"I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this," he said. "First, I fully support a woman's right to come forward and I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional, and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it and, frankly, I am embarrassed by it. And that's not easy to say, but that's the truth. But this is what I want you to know, and I want you to know this from me directly. I never touched anyone inappropriately. . . . I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable."
Attorney General Letitia James is assembling a team of outside investigators to examine the sexual harassment allegations against the governor.
"I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general's report before forming an opinion," the governor said. "Get the facts, please, before forming an opinion, and the attorney general is doing that review, I will fully cooperate with it, and then you will have the facts, and make a decision when you know the facts."
In response to another question, he spoke directly of allegations by Anna Ruch, who said that at a 2019 wedding reception the governor had put his hand on her bare lower back, and then put his hands on her cheeks and asked if he could kiss her. A photograph of the incident was recently published.
"I understand the opinions and feelings of Ms. Ruch. You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people. Women, men, children, etc. You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people. Men, women, it is my usual and customary way of greeting. . . . By the way, it was my father's way of greeting people." Mario Cuomo was New York's governor from 1983 to 1994.
"I kiss and hug legislators," the governor said. "I was at an event in Queens yesterday. I hugged the pastors, the Assembly members who were there. . . . However, what I also understand is it doesn't matter, my intent. What matters is if anybody was offended by it. And I could intend no offense, but if they were offended by it, then it was wrong. And if they were offended by it, I apologize. If they were hurt by it, I apologize. If they felt pain from it, I apologize. . . . I did not intend it."
Melissa DeRosa, the governor's top aide, asked "that everyone refrain from judgment until the attorney general is allowed to do her work. . . . I am incredibly proud of the work that this administration has done to further women's rights, expand protections for women in the workplace, out of the workplace, for reproductive health, the work goes on and on."
The uproar overshadowed the governor's recitation of statistics showing a downward trend in the statewide Covid-19 infection rate, hospitalizations, and deaths. The latest positive infection rate is 3.53 percent, he said. Hospitalizations fell by 46, to 5,433. The number of patients in an intensive care unit fell by 29, and 12 fewer patients were intubated.
"So we've really made tremendous progress," he said. "Very, very good news."
Around 160,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will soon arrive in the state, the governor said. "This is, from a practical point of view, not a medical point of view, much easier than the Pfizer [and] Moderna vaccines," he said. "One shot . . . you don't have to schedule a second. And there's no cold storage for the Johnson & Johnson, so it's a very big deal."
Robert Mujica, director of the state's Division of the Budget, announced that starting on March 22 the limit on outdoor residential gatherings would increase from 10 to 25, while indoor residential gatherings would still be limited to 10.
In indoor public spaces, the limit will rise from 50 to 100, and in outdoor public spaces, from 50 to 200.
All such gatherings will still require social distancing to be observed and the wearing of face coverings.