ALBANY, N.Y. (AP & WXXI News) —New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told a female journalist she was doing "a disservice to women" Wednesday by asking what his administration was doing to confront sexual harassment in state government. (WATCH: Video at the end of this story)
Public radio reporter Karen DeWitt (who is employed by WXXI News) asked the Democratic governor whether he was considering new policies in light of the national attention on sexual misconduct, as well as the recent resignation of a state economic development official who was under investigation for harassment.
Cuomo did not directly answer her question, and instead asked her and other reporters what they were doing to address harassment in their organizations.
"I think you missed the point," he told DeWitt. "When you say 'it's state government' you do a disservice to women, with all due respect, even though you're a woman."
Cuomo said he feels that questions about the state response minimize the broader issue of sexual assault, which he said is a problem in all industries and areas of society. "It's not government. It's society," he said.
DeWitt pressed Cuomo for specifics about the state's response. "I understand," she told Cuomo following his comments on the scope of sexual harassment, "But can you just name one thing?"
"No," Cuomo said.
The governor later said he intended his comments to be about the need for comprehensive, societal approach to the problem. He said he will put forward proposals to combat sexual harassment in his state of the state address next month. Cuomo also called DeWitt after the exchange to clarify what he meant, a spokesman said Wednesday evening.
Karen DeWitt says that Governor Cuomo did later call her to apologize, and she accepted his apology.
The state's Republican Party took Cuomo to task for his remarks, labeling the episode a "bizarre lecture to a female journalist about sexual harassment."
Several state lawmakers have faced allegations of harassment and sexual misconduct in recent years. Some women serving in the Legislature have called for a new, uniform policy covering all elected officials and state employees, instead of the current patchwork of policies in the executive and legislative branches.
(Video courtesy of New York NOW)
The governor's exchange with @kdewitt7 on possible changes to the state's sexual harrassment policy in light of the surge in national stories on the issue, along with ex-aide Sam Hoyt. pic.twitter.com/pOJATOohRr
— New York NOW (@NYNOW_PBS) December 13, 2017