Video of then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo testifying in the state attorney general’s probe of sexual harassment claims against him shows a selectively forgetful, conceited and often defiant chief executive — who at one point smirks when his live TV flirtation with a state Department of Health official is mentioned to him.
During more than six hours of video released Monday, Cuomo was apparently amused by an investigator quoting his own lecherous comment from a transcript of what he said to a PPE-clad Dr. Elizabeth Dufort as she administered a COVID-19 test during a live May 2020 press conference.
“You say, ‘You make that gown look good,’” says Joon Kim, a former federal prosecutor hired by state Attorney General Letitia James to handle the probe, as Cuomo, while looking down at papers, starts to smile.
During the July 17 interview with investigators, Cuomo then claimed not to remember the nationally televised comments he made to Dufort, the former medical director of the state DOH’s office of epidemiology who was one of 11 sexual harassment accusers detailed in James’ investigation.
After momentarily assuming a poker face, Cuomo reverted to a half-smirk.
At the end of the taped interview — during which Cuomo alternated between boredom, self-satisfaction and dismissiveness — he attempted to provide his own comedic input, joking that testifying all day had not been a fun experience.
“I would like to say it was a pleasure, Mr. Kim, but I’m under oath,” Cuomo says while letting out a belly laugh.
Cuomo — wearing a navy suit and light blue tie while chewing gum and sipping on Dunkin during his questioning — also grinned as he combatively played an obtuse word game with Kim when he asked if he dated ex-actor Lisa Shields, whose appearance he allegedly compared to that of first sexual harassment accuser Lindsey Boylan.
“Nowadays, Mr. Kim, I believe you have to be very careful about how you define that term,” Cuomo says with a wry smile. “‘Girlfriend’ could mean this: I — she is a woman who was a friend who I did see romantically for a period of time.”
Cuomo was also forced to answer uncomfortable questions, which he answered with more staid expressions.
Asked if he has ever kissed any men on the lips, Cuomo pauses for a few seconds, before deadpanning, “Not purposefully.”
“I kiss them on the cheek, often,” Cuomo adds.
“I may have kissed a man on the lips.”
“Who?” Kim asks.
“I don’t know,” Cuomo answers.
“I’m not going to say I’ve never kissed a man on the lips,” he says flatly at the conclusion of the discussion of the topic.
When asked about the photo of him kissing Anna Ruch at a wedding without her consent, Cuomo was dismissive, claiming he’s touched people of all ages and genders “hundreds of times.”
“By the way, this gesture of the touching of the face, I do this hundreds of times,” he insists. “Younger children, old men, transgender people, the touching of the face I do very often.”
On the topic of a woman event organizer who told state probers that he “grabbed [her] butt” during a September 2019 Hudson River revitalization event, Cuomo claimed he had “no recollection” of the incident.
“I have no recollection of touching a woman on her butt. May it have happened accidentally? Incidentally? Yes. But I don’t have any recollection of purposefully touching a woman on the butt. May I have given a man a pat on the butt? I don’t remember that either, but that may have happened.”
But despite being forced to explain a myriad of documented instances of inappropriate touching and comments to women staffers, Cuomo expressed unequivocally that he feels no remorse for his behavior.
“I don’t have regrets. Look, if you could always state everything over, I’m sure I would state things — if I could restate everything I’ve ever said to a woman or a man, I’d say it differently,” he says. “But generally, no.”
He also responded “No” when Kim asked about “regrets generally or specifically about the language you have used.”
As he faced impeachment after the legal and political fallout from the AG probe, Cuomo announced his resignation less than a month after the marathon interview.
The newly released cache of documents and videos has put his younger brother, CNN host Chris Cuomo, in hot water, as it revealed he was extensively involved in the former governor’s team’s public relations defense to the scandal, despite publicly downplaying his involvement in it.