Cuomo says kissing and hugging people is his ‘usual and customary way of greeting’ but apologizes ‘if they were offended by it’

Andrew Cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a press conference on September 29, 2020. Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his “usual” way of greeting people involves hugging and kissing.
  • “You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people,” Cuomo said Wednesday.
  • Cuomo apologized for his behavior with women who have recently accused him of sexual harassment. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday responded to sexual harassment accusations against him, and said that his “usual and customary way of greeting” involves kissing and hugging people and apologized if the behavior offended anyone.

“You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people: women, men, children, et cetera,” Cuomo said during a news briefing in response to a newly circulated photo of him placing his hands on a woman’s face at a wedding reception in New York City in 2019. “You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people, men, women. It is my usual and customary way of greeting.”

“It was my father’s way of greeting people,” Cuomo said, referring to former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo. “You’re the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable. You want to reach out to them.”

“I kiss and hug legislators,” he added. “I was at an event in Queens the other day, hugged the pastors and the assembly members who were there. So that is my way to do that.”

The woman in the photo, 33-year-old Anna Ruch, has recently accused Cuomo of sexual harassment. She told The New York Times that their interaction made her feel “uncomfortable and embarrassed.” Two other women, Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett, both former aides to Cuomo, have also recently come forward with sexual harassment claims against the governor. Both alleged the governor had made unwanted sexual advances towards them.

Cuomo apologized on Wednesday for his past behavior with the women and said that he was “ashamed” over it.

“What I also understand is, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter my intent. What it matters is if anybody was offended by it,” Cuomo said. “And I could intend no offense, but if they were offended by it, then it was wrong. And if they were offended by it, I apologize.”

New York Attorney General Tish James is kicking off an investigation into the sexual harassment claims. Cuomo on Wednesday urged New Yorkers to wait for the results of the case before forming an opinion on the matter.

Several lawmakers have called for Cuomo’s resignation in light of the allegations, yet the governor on Wednesday made clear that he does not intend to step down. Some have also called for Cuomo’s impeachment.

“I apologized several days ago. I apologized today,” Cuomo said. “I will apologize tomorrow. I will apologize the day after.”