“These were hugs with the intention of getting some personal sexual satisfaction out of,” she said. “Then they started to be hugs with kisses on the cheek. And then there was — at one point — a hug, and then when he went to go kiss me on the cheek, he quickly turned his head, and he kissed me on the lips.”
Commisso also said Cuomo groped her twice. The first alleged incident occurred at the executive mansion on New Year’s Eve 2019, when she visited the governor’s official residence to help him prepare his State of the State address.
“I wasn’t there late. I did my final edit,” Commisso said. “And while I was upstairs in the office, the governor said, ‘Why don’t we take a selfie?’
“I then felt — while taking the selfie — his hand go down my back, onto my butt, and he started rubbing it,” she said. “Not sliding it. Not quickly brushing over it. Rubbing my butt.”
Commisso said that while she was taking the selfie with her phone, she became “so nervous” that her hands “were clearly shaking, and a lot of the photos that I was snapping were completely blurry.”
The governor was unsatisfied with the photos, she said, and he suggested: “Why don’t we go sit on the couch, and we can take a better one?” They then moved to the couch to take more photos, she said.
The second alleged groping incident also took place at the executive mansion in November, Commisso said.
“He gets up, and he goes to give me a hug,” she said. “And I could tell immediately when he hugged me, it was in a — probably the most sexually aggressive manner than any of the other hugs that he had given me.”
“It was then that I said, ‘Governor’ — my words were, ‘You’re going to get us in trouble,’” Commisso said.
“When I said that, he walked over, shut the door so hard, to the point where I thought, for sure, someone downstairs must think — they must think, if they heard that, ‘What is going on?’”
Commisso said Cuomo then “came back to me, and that’s when he put his hand down my blouse and cupped my breast over my bra.”
Commisso said she remembered “looking down, seeing his hand — which is a large hand — [and] thinking to myself, ‘Oh, my God, this is happening.’ It happened so quick. He didn’t say anything. When I stopped it, he just pulled away and walked away.”
The Albany County Sheriff’s Office announced Friday that a woman — now publicly identified as Commisso — had filed a criminal complaint against Cuomo with the department, adding to the governor’s growing list of legal troubles related to sexual harassment. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, whose chamber is gearing up toward potentially impeaching Cuomo, announced the next steps in its investigation into the governor and said that its “goal is now to bring this matter to a conclusion with all due haste.“
“It was the right thing to do. The governor needs to be held accountable,” Commisso said. Cuomo is now facing at least four potential criminal investigations by district attorneys in Manhattan and Albany, Nassau and Westchester counties.
Commisso’s interview aired just hours after Melissa DeRosa — the secretary to the governor, New York’s highest-ranking unelected official and Cuomo’s most public-facing loyalist — confirmed her resignation on Sunday evening. The interview also comes as the state Legislature is expected to take a new step in its impeachment probe of the governor.
Cuomo‘s outside attorney, Rita Glavin, denied Commisso‘s accusations in an interview Monday afternoon on MSNBC. Glavin both denied the substance of Commisso‘s account, saying “that did not happen,” and called into question the accuracy of her testimony.
“With respect to Brittany Commisso, it just did not happen,“ Glavin said.
Glavin also tried to differentiate between the 11 women detailed in the attorney general‘s report, noting that several of them were not state employees or that their allegations did not rise to the severity of that alleged by people like Commisso.
“I’ve been hearing it over and over again: ‘It‘s 11 women,‘“Glavin said. “They‘re qualitatively different.“
In the 168-page report released last week by the state attorney general’s office, Commisso is identified as “Executive Assistant #1.” Investigators determined that Cuomo “engaged in a pattern of inappropriate conduct” with Commisso that began in roughly late 2019.
According to the report’s findings, Cuomo’s harassment of Commisso included “close and intimate hugs”; “kisses on the cheeks, forehead, and at least one kiss on the lips”; “touching and grabbing of [Commisso’s] butt during hugs and, on one occasion, while taking selfies with him”; and “comments and jokes by [Cuomo] about [Commisso’s] personal life and relationships.”
Those inappropriate remarks by the governor included “calling [Commisso] and another assistant ‘mingle mamas,’” “inquiring multiple times about whether she had cheated or would cheat on her husband,” and “asking her to help find him a girlfriend,” according to the report.
The investigators also corroborated Commisso’s claim that — in a November incident at the executive mansion — Cuomo engaged in “another close hug” with Commisso, during which he “reached under her blouse and grabbed her breast.”
Cuomo denied the conclusions of the state attorney general’s report last week in a 14-minute, pre-taped video that sidestepped investigators’ most devastating findings and featured images of him publicly embracing a wide range of officials and constituents.
The governor also encouraged viewers to read an 85-page “position statement” prepared by his personal attorney, Rita Glavin, that included more than two dozen photos of prominent politicians embracing and kissing people.
In an interview on Saturday that echoed her argument Monday to MSNBC, Glavin accused Commisso of lying, arguing that Commisso’s claims did not “pass muster” with a previous interview she participated in with The Times Union in April.
“There are facts they got wrong — important facts, particularly with respect to the woman who is claiming she was assaulted,” Glavin told CNN. “She most certainly was not. There was evidence that they collected and that they ignored and omitted putting in their report. And they also credited people that they know lied and had motives to lie.”
Lindsey Boylan, the first woman to publicly accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment, published a Medium post Monday after the Commisso interview aired, saying the governor “continues to abuse” the women who’ve come forward with allegations.
“As recently as Saturday, the Governor sent his attack dogs on national television to accuse me of ‘lying,’” Boylan said. “He is gaslighting and revictimizing us. He is showing everyone what happens to women when they speak up about harassment and abuse in the workplace.”
Boylan wrote that she often thinks about how close she was to becoming “the villain of this story,” condemning the Cuomo administration for using official government channels to issue statements and hold news conferences to “spread lies.”
“The universal refrain of congratulations for telling ‘our truths’ doesn’t bring me much comfort,” she said. “In some ways, it simply confirms that women are believed only when an investigative report is made public and the evidence is overwhelming,” Boylan said. “It’s a shame that the institutions we uphold as our protectors and advocates — government, political leaders, the media, victims’ and women’s rights organizations — still don’t believe us when a powerful man is involved.”
“It’s not ‘our truth,’” she added. “It’s the truth.”
Boylan’s attorney has said she plans to sue Cuomo over alleged retaliation against her after she spoke out in February. The former Cuomo aide re-upped her intentions to sue in Monday‘s post.
Nick Niedzwiadek and Myah Ward contributed to this report.