Under fire from dual scandals, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday ceded control of an investigation into whether he sexually harassed female subordinates and admitted for the first time some of his behavior with women "may have been insensitive or too personal."
The reversal by New York's top Democrat came as senior members of his own party called the allegations against him credible and demanded an independent probe.
"The women who have come forward with serious and credible charges against Governor Cuomo deserve to be heard and to be treated with dignity," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Fox News, signaling the fallout from Cuomo's scandals had stretched beyond Albany to Washington. "The independent investigation must have due process and respect for everyone involved.
Cuomo on Saturday evening initially appointed a former federal judge to evaluate the sex harassment allegations from two state former workers, Charlotte Bennett and Lindsey Boylan. But he reversed course Sunday amid mounting criticism he was trying to control the probe. He ceded to demands that Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, control the inquiry.
James said she planned to deputize an outside law firm to conduct “a rigorous and independent investigation."
Cuomo also issued an apology, saying that while he had never inappropriately touched or propositioned anyone he may have engaged in inappropriate comments that felt like flirtation to women.
“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation," he said. "To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.”
The Biden White House weighed in on Sunday as well, calling for an independent review.
"There should be an independent review looking in to these allegations, and that's certainly something he supports and we believe should move forward as quickly as possible," Press Secretary Jen Psaki told CNN's State of the Union.
Prominent Democrats, including state Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, had urged Cuomo to follow the state's tradition and refer the probe to James.
"As has become standard practice in the State of New York when allegations relate directly to the Executive, Governor Cuomo should refer the matter to the Attorney General, who should, in turn, appoint an independent investigator," Nadler said.