Cuomo Accuser to CBS: ‘Absolutely’ the Media Made Him Feel ‘Untouchable’

CAUTION: Charlotte Bennett’s account of what allegedly occurred between her and Governor Cuomo is disturbing. Reader discretion is advised.

Charlotte Bennett, the third woman to accuse New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) of sexual harassment, didn’t mince words during her exclusive Thursday interview with CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell; telling viewers that the media played a role in making him feel “untouchable” and enabled him to sexually harass her. And as she went into detail about what allegedly happened in his office, she revealed a whole host of gross and disgusting actions from Cuomo.

At the top of the video, O’Donnell set the tone by confirming with Bennett that it was clear Cuomo was “propositioning” her for sex. From there, the anchor asked if the special attention Cuomo was getting from the media had “emboldened” him, and Bennett affirmed it:

BENNETT: The pandemic was obviously stressful for all of us. And he was on TV nearly every day talking about it.

O’DONNELL: So, you think all this national attention may have emboldened him?

BENNETT: Absolutely. I think he felt like he was untouchable in a lot of ways.

Via a voice-over, O’Donnell described how Cuomo “became fixated, repeating over and over again her history as a sexual assault survivor.” And speaking in Cuomo’s cadence, Bennett recounted a gross May 15, 2020 encounter: “So he goes, ‘you were raped. You were raped. You were raped and abused and assaulted.’”

Bennett went on to tell O’Donnell about a June 5, 2020 incident where Cuomo explained that “he is looking for a girlfriend, he’s lonely, he’s tired.” This came after Cuomo allegedly told her to turn off a tape recorder used for taking dictation.

 

 

From there, Cuomo apparently questioned her about whether or not she had trouble being intimate because she’s a sexual assault survivor, and told her he didn’t have a problem being with a woman who was over 22. Cuomo was 62 at the time (click “expand”):

O’DONNELL: You’ve just finished dictation and the Governor is telling you he’s lonely, and looking for a relationship.

BENNETT: Yes. He asked if I had trouble enjoying being with someone because of my trauma.

O’DONNELL: This seemed highly inappropriate.

BENNETT: Yeah, the Governor asked me if I was sensitive to intimacy.

O’DONNELL: In his office.

BENNETT: Yes. During the work day.

O’DONNELL: You have been quoted as saying that he also asked you about if you had ever been with an older man.

BENNETT: Yeah. He asked me if age difference mattered. He also explained that he was fine with anyone over 22.

O’DONNELL: And how old are you?

BENNETT: I’m 25.

“I thought he’s trying to sleep with me. The governor is trying to sleep with me. And I am deeply uncomfortable and I have to get out of this room as soon as possible,” she added.

Bennett also provided CBS with contemporaneous text messages she sent to a friend after the encounter occurred. O’Donnell read from them:

Text messages sent by Bennett to a friend and reviewed by CBS News memorialize her encounter with Cuomo immediately afterwards. Bennett tells her friend the governor, quote, “talked about age differences in relationships.” The friend who verified the messages asked, “wait, what? Did he do something?” Bennett responds, “no, but it was like the most explicit it could be.”

Speaking at to why she didn’t just leave the room or shut down the conversation, Bennett explained: “I didn’t feel like I had a choice … He’s my boss. He’s everyone’s boss.”

It’s worth noting Cuomo was the same governor who allegedly threatened the career of a New York assemblyman who spoke out against him over the nursing home scandal. O’Donnell did note that scandal too.

But while Fox News Channel’s Special Report and NBC Nightly News each had reports featuring soundbites from CBS’s exclusive interview with Bennett, ABC’s World News Tonight let everyone know they were done covering Cuomo’s alleged sexual misconduct by ignoring the scandal completely. It came the day after the network boosted the Governor’s so-called “apology” over his accusers.

The transcript is below, click “expand” to read:

CBS Evening News
March 4, 2021
6:32:20 p.m. Eastern

NORAH O’DONNELL: But we’re going to begin with breaking news because for the first time tonight, one of the women accusing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is speaking out to CBS News, on camera detailing what she says was clear sexual harassment by the powerful Democrat and head of the national governor’s association.

Cuomo’s former Executive Assistant Charlotte Bennett says the Governor asked her intimate and inappropriate questions about her personal life, all she said in an attempt to sleep with her.

The Governor, who became an international celebrity for his handling of the early days of the pandemic in New York is new facing allegations that his administration covered up COVID deaths at nursing homes, along with allegations from three women that he sexually harassed them.

On Wednesday, Cuomo publicly apologized saying he was sorry if he acted in a way that made anyone feel uncomfortable. But as you’ll hear tonight Charlotte Bennett says that apology did not go far enough. Calling him a textbook abuser.

[Cuts to video]

Governor Cuomo said that he had never propositioned anybody. Do you believe that he was propositioning you?

CHARLOTTE BENNETT: Yes.

O’DONNELL: For what.

BENNETT: Sex.

O’DONNELL: In the spring of 2020 New York was the epicenter of the COVID crisis.

BENNETT: The pandemic was obviously stressful for all of us. And he was on TV nearly every day talking about it.

O’DONNELL: So, you think all this national attention may have emboldened him?

BENNETT: Absolutely. I think he felt like he was untouchable in a lot of ways.

O’DONNELL: Bennett says their professional relationship took a turn on May 15 when she alleges the Governor started asking her about her love life, and then became fixated, repeating over and over again her history as a sexual assault survivor.

BENNETT: So he goes, you were raped. You were raped. You were raped and abused and assaulted.

O’DONNELL: Another key encounter happened on June 5 when Bennett says she was called into Cuomo’s office to take dictation and he told her to turn off the tape recorder.

BENNETT: And then he explains at that point that he is looking for a girlfriend, he’s lonely, he’s tired.

O’DONNELL: You’ve just finished dictation and the Governor is telling you he’s lonely, and looking for a relationship.

BENNETT: Yes. He asked if I had trouble enjoying being with someone because of my trauma.

O’DONNELL: This seemed highly inappropriate.

BENNETT: Yeah, the Governor asked me if I was sensitive to intimacy.

O’DONNELL: In his office.

BENNETT: Yes. During the work day.

O’DONNELL: You have been quoted as saying that he also asked you about if you had ever been with an older man.

BENNETT: Yeah. He asked me if age difference mattered. He also explained that he was fine with anyone over 22.

O’DONNELL: And how old are you?

BENNETT: I’m 25.

O’DONNELL: What were you thinking as he’s asking you these questions?

BENNETT: I thought he’s trying to sleep with me. The governor is trying to sleep with me. And I am deeply uncomfortable and I have to get out of this room as soon as possible.

O’DONNELL: And to be clear, what made you think that he was trying to sleep with you?

BENNETT: Without explicitly saying it, he implied to me that I was old enough for him and he was lonely.

O’DONNELL: Text messages sent by Bennett to a friend and reviewed by CBS News memorialize her encounter with Cuomo immediately afterwards. Bennett tells her friend the governor, quote, “talked about age differences in relationships.” The friend who verified the messages asked, “wait, what? Did he do something?” Bennett responds, “no, but it was like the most explicit it could be.”

How did you respond to those questions?

BENNETT: I responded honestly. And when I was even thinking of coming forward I think that was where I held the most shame. And that like I really was uncomfortable.

O’DONNELL: Why did you feel shame?

BENNETT: I feel like people put the onus on the woman to shut that conversation down. And by answering I was show engaging in that, or enabling it, when in fact I was just terrified.

O’DONNELL: People will watch this and say why didn’t you get up and leave.

BENNETT: I didn’t feel like I had a choice.

O’DONNELL: He’s your boss.

BENNETT: He’s my boss. He’s everyone’s boss.

O’DONNELL: Governor Cuomo said in a statement that what he said may have, quote, been misinterpreted, did you misinterpret him?

BENNETT: No, I understood him loud and clear. It just didn’t go the way he planned.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I never knew at the time I was making any one feel uncomfortable.

O’DONNELL: Did you watch Governor Cuomo’s apology?

BENNETT: I did. It’s not an apology. It is not an issue of my feelings. It is an issue of his actions. The fact is that he was sexually harassing me and he has not apologized for sexually harassing me. And he can’t even use my name.

[Cuts back to live]

O’DONNELL: And we reached out to Governor Cuomo’s office to respond to Charlotte Bennett’s claims, they directed us to the Governor’s apology yesterday, and asked people to wait for results of the state attorney general’s investigation.

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