“So he goes, you were raped. You were raped. You were raped, and abused, and assaulted.”
In a CBS News exclusive interview, Norah O’Donnell speaks with Charlotte Bennett, a former aide to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo who alleges he asked her inappropriate questions about her sex life and being a survivor of sexual assault.
Another portion of the interview will be broadcast Friday morning on ‘CBS This Morning.’
NORAH O’DONNELL: Governor Cuomo said that he has never propositioned anybody. Do you believe that he was propositioning you?
CHARLOTTE BENNETT: Yes.
NORAH O’DONNELL: For what?
CHARLOTTE BENNETT: Sex.
NORAH O’DONNELL: In the spring of 2020 New York was the epicenter of the COVID crisis.
CHARLOTTE BENNETT: The pandemic was obviously stressful for all of us. And he was on TV nearly every day talking about it.
ANDREW CUOMO: You make that gown look good.
NORAH O’DONNELL: So you think all this national attention may have emboldened him.
CHARLOTTE BENNETT: Absolutely. I think he felt like he was untouchable in a lot of ways.
NORAH 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.
CHARLOTTE BENNETT: So he goes, you were raped. You were raped. You were raped, and abused, and assaulted.
NORAH 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.
CHARLOTTE BENNETT: And then he explains, at that point, that he is looking for a girlfriend. He is lonely. He’s tired.
NORAH O’DONNELL: You’ve just finished dictation and the governor is telling you he’s lonely and looking for a relationship.
CHARLOTTE BENNETT: Yes. He asked if I had trouble enjoying being with someone because of my drama.
NORAH O’DONNELL: This seems highly inappropriate.
CHARLOTTE BENNETT: Yeah. The governor asked me if I was sensitive to intimacy.
NORAH O’DONNELL: In his office?
CHARLOTTE BENNETT: Yes, during the workday.
NORAH O’DONNELL: You have been quoted as saying that he also asked you about if you’d ever been with an older man.
CHARLOTTE BENNETT: Yeah. He asked me if age difference mattered. He also explained that he was fine with anyone over 22.
NORAH O’DONNELL: And how old are you?
CHARLOTTE BENNETT: 25.
NORAH O’DONNELL: What were you thinking as he’s asking you these questions?
CHARLOTTE BENNETT: I thought, he’s trying to sleep with me. The governor is trying to sleep with me. And I’m deeply uncomfortable. And I have to get out of this room as soon as possible.
NORAH O’DONNELL: And to be clear, what made you think that he was trying to sleep with you?
CHARLOTTE BENNETT: Without explicitly saying it, he implied to me that I was old enough for him and he was lonely.
NORAH 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 asks, 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?
CHARLOTTE BENNETT: I responded honestly. And when I was even thinking of coming forward, I think that was where I held the most shame in that, like, I really was uncomfortable.
NORAH O’DONNELL: Why did you feel shame?
CHARLOTTE BENNETT: I feel like people put the onus on the woman to shut that conversation down, and by answering I was somehow engaging in that or enabling it, when in fact I was just terrified.
NORAH O’DONNELL: People will watch this and say, why didn’t you get up and leave?
CHARLOTTE BENNETT: It didn’t feel like I had a choice.
NORAH O’DONNELL: He’s your boss.
CHARLOTTE BENNETT: He’s my boss. He’s everyone’s boss.
NORAH O’DONNELL: Governor Cuomo said in a statement that what he said may have quote, “been misinterpreted.” Did you misinterpret him?
CHARLOTTE BENNETT: No, I understood him loud and clear. It just didn’t go the way he planned.
ANDREW CUOMO: I never knew at the time I was making anyone feel uncomfortable.
NORAH O’DONNELL: Did you watch Governor Cuomo’s apology?
CHARLOTTE BENNETT: I did. It’s not an apology. It’s not an issue of my feelings. It’s 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.
NORAH 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.