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The former executive assistant to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) who filed a criminal complaint against him alleging he sexually harassed her is speaking publicly for the first time.
Brittany Commisso, 32, is the woman identified as "Executive Assistant #1" in New York Attorney General Letitia James' bombshell report alleging that Cuomo broke federal and state laws by sexually harassing at least 11 women and creating a hostile work environment in the Executive Chamber.
In an interview with "CBS This Morning" and the Times Union, Commisso described how her "dream job" was "turned into a nightmare" after Cuomo allegedly groped her on multiple occasions and engaged in a pattern of other inappropriate conduct towards her. Though she was not the first woman to come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Cuomo, her testimony appears first in the attorney general's report, and she believes this is because her accusations are the most serious.
"I believe that my story appears first due to the nature of the inappropriate conduct that the governor did to me," Commisso said. "I believe that he groped me, he touched me, not only once, but twice."
Commisso claims that Cuomo groped her the first time on Dec. 31, 2019, at the governor's mansion. She told CBS News that she was alone with the governor that night helping Cuomo with his upcoming State of the State address. She claimed that after she finished her draft of the speech, Cuomo suggested the they take a selfie together.
"He was to my left. I was on the right. With my right hand, I took the selfie," she said. "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 repeated allegations made in the attorney general's report that Cuomo made her so uncomfortable she started to shake, causing the pictures she took to come out blurry.
"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.'"
Commisso said that next Cuomo suggested they take a picture together on the couch, and she agreed because she thought he wouldn't be able to grope her butt if they were sitting down.
"So we sat down on the couch and in the photo I have my arm wrapped around his shoulder, almost as if we were taking a picture with a buddy. And I got a clear photo sitting down," she said. "And that is the one that has been blurred out that has been now released to the public."
Cuomo has denied that he ever touched Commisso inappropriately when they took the selfie together.
Commisso alleges Cuomo groped her a second time at the governor's mansion in November 2020.
In the attorney general's report, Commisso testified that Cuomo would ask for a hug "almost every time" before she left the Executive Mansion and that over time the hugs felt "closer and tighter." During this particular encounter, she says Cuomo hugged her in a "sexually aggressive manner."
"It was then that I said, you know, governor, you know, you're — my words were 'you're going to get us in trouble.' And I thought to myself, that probably wasn't the best thing to say," Commisso told CBS News.
Commisso claims she was worried that someone might walk in, see what was happening, and get the wrong idea. But after she said as much to the governor, Cuomo "shut the door so hard to the point where I thought for sure, someone downstairs must think if they heard that, 'What is going on?'"
Then, she says, he reached under her blouse and cupped her breast.
"He came back to me and that's when he put his hand up my blouse and cupped my breast over my bra," she said. "I exactly remember looking down, seeing his hand, which is a large hand, thinking to myself, 'Oh, my God. This is happening.'"
"It happened so quick, he didn't say anything. When I stopped it, he just pulled away and walked away."
Commisso said the governor's behavior was as if he was "in a sexually aggressive state of mind" but was at a loss for words to explain how or why this happened.
Cuomo has adamantly denied this accusation, saying, "To touch a woman's breasts, who I hardly know, in the mansion with 10 staff around, with my family in the mansion, to say, 'I don't care who sees us.' I would have to lose my mind to do such a thing."
Commisso said Cuomo's denials were "disgusting."
"I know the truth. He knows the truth. I know what happened and so does he," she said. "I don't believe that there were 10 staff there that day. I don't believe his family was there that day. And if that's what he has to say to make himself feel better, I really, I feel sorry for him."
Until now, Commisso's identity had been unknown. She had wished to remain anonymous to protect her family. But she decided to come forward after Cuomo held a press conference in March 2021 during which he stated that he "never touched anyone inappropriately."
"He almost has this smirk that he thinks that he's untouchable," Commisso said. "I almost feel like he has this sense of almost a celebrity status and it just — that was the tipping point. I broke down. I said 'He is lying.'"
"I felt like he was personally saying it to me, that 'I never touched anyone inappropriately,'" Commisso explained. "And, yes, you did."
Commisso says that the governor would also hug her inappropriately and once kissed her on the lips without her consent. Cuomo has responded to allegations of inappropriate or nonconsensual touching by attributing his behavior to his Italian heritage, claiming that "generational" and "cultural" differences he inherited from "my mother and from my father" caused people to misinterpret his actions.
"These were not hugs that he would give his mother or his brother," Commisso emphasized. "These were hugs with the intention of getting some personal sexual satisfaction out of. Then they started to be hugs with kisses on the cheek. Then there was at one point a hug, and then when he went to go kiss me on the cheek, he quickly turned his head and he kissed me on the lips."
"Maybe to him, he thought this was normal. But to me and the other women that he did this to, well, it was not normal," she added. "It was not welcomed. And it was certainly not consensual."
Commisso said Cuomo was lying when he claimed that he only hugged her because she initiated the contact. She said she filed a criminal complaint because "it was the right thing to do. The governor needs to be held accountable."
"What he did was a crime," she said. "He broke the law."
Cuomo has denied all accusations of sexual harassment made against him and has stubbornly refused calls to resign made by virtually every Democratic official in New York and President Joe Biden.
The Albany County Sheriff's Office said Saturday that it is in the "very infant stages" of investigating the criminal complaint against Cuomo. Sheriff Craig Apple said that if any charges are brought against the governor, they will likely be misdemeanors.
The New York State Assembly Judiciary Committee is meeting Monday to discuss the next steps in its impeachment probe against Cuomo. Should Cuomo refuse to resign, it is all but certain the legislature will move to impeach and remove the governor from office.
Concluding the interview with CBS News, Commisso called on Cuomo to resign and to tell the truth:
"There was a speech that he gave less than a month ago, and in his speech, he said, 'If you give New Yorkers the truth and you give New Yorkers the facts, the good, the bad, the ugly, they will do the right thing.' I would say, Governor, this is the truth. These are the facts. And it's your turn to do the right thing. And that right thing is to resign and to tell the truth."
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