ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — An executive assistant who accused New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of groping her breast at the governor’s mansion detailed why she felt empowered to go public with her allegations Monday, as a key legislative committee is set to discuss possible impeachment hearings.
Brittany Commisso, one of nearly a dozen women whose accounts of sexual harassment by Cuomo detailed in a report by the state’s attorney general, last week became the first woman to file a criminal complaint against Cuomo, giving a report to the county sheriff.
She said the Democratic governor groped her for the first time on Dec. 31, 2019. According to Commisso, Cuomo suggested the two of them take a selfie together.
“He was to my left. I was on the right. With my right hand, I took the selfie,” Commisso, now 32, said in a joint interview with CBS and The Times Union of Albany. “I then felt while taking the selfie, his hand go down my back onto my butt, and he started rubbing it. Not sliding it. Not, you know, quickly brushing over it — rubbing my butt.”
Commisso, who began working as an executive assistant in the governor’s office in 2017, said this made her so nervous that her hands began to shake, making it difficult for her to even take the picture.
“I was embarrassed,” she said. “Not only embarrassed for what was going on, I was embarrassed that a governor wanted a selfie and I couldn’t take it. I was so nervous. I remember looking at them, and when he said, ‘Can I see them?’ I showed him them. And he said, ‘Oh, those aren’t — those aren’t good.’”
The attention from Cuomo was not normal friendliness, as the governor has characterized it, Commisso said. “Maybe to him, he thought this was normal. But to me and the other women that he did this to, it was not normal. It was not welcomed and it was certainly not consensual.”
She said she waited to publicly have her name attached to the allegations because she was fearful of retaliation and wanted to protect her daughter.
“After a couple of months and processing this whole thing, I do want her to know that she has a voice,” Commisso said of her daughter. “I never want her to be afraid to speak. I never want her to be afraid of any person in power, a man or a woman.”
Cuomo has denied touching any women inappropriately and said the groping encounter never happened.
The Associated Press does not generally identify alleged victims of sexual misconduct unless they decide to speak out publicly, as Commisso has done.
The interview aired as Cuomo faces another day under fire.
Scores of Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have urged Cuomo to leave office. About two-thirds of state Assembly members have already said they favor an impeachment trial if he refuses to resign. Only a simple majority vote is needed to begin an impeachment trial.
Cuomo will be going into the fight without his former top aide, Melissa DeRosa.
DeRosa, a steady presence at Cuomo’s side during his months of coronavirus news conferences, resigned late Sunday, saying the past two years had been “emotionally and mentally trying.”
The administration has been in crisis since last week, when a report made public by state Attorney General Letitia James concluded that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women.
Cuomo’s lawyers have attacked the attorney general’s investigation as biased in favor of his female accusers.
At least five district attorneys have asked for materials from the attorney general’s inquiry to see if any of the allegations could result in criminal charges. Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said Saturday that Cuomo could face misdemeanor charges if investigators substantiate Commisso’s complaint.