An executive assistant who accused New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of groping her detailed why she felt empowered to go public with her allegations Monday, as a key legislative committee is set to discuss possible impeachment hearings.
Brittany Commisso, one of nearly a dozen women whose accounts of sexual harassment by Cuomo were outlined in a report by the state’s attorney general, told her story for the first time on camera in an interview that aired Monday. She became the first woman to file a criminal complaint against Cuomo, giving a report to the county sheriff last week.
She said she waited to publicly have her name attached to the allegations because she was fearful of retaliation.
“I was afraid that if I had to come forward and revealed my name, that the governor and his enablers, I like to call them, would viciously attack me, would smear my name, as I had seen and heard them do before to people,” Commisso, now 32, said in a joint interview with CBS and The Times Union of Albany.
She said she also wanted to protect her daughter, but now feels speaking out shows her that “she has a voice.”
“I never want her to be afraid to speak,” Commisso said. “I never want her to be afraid of any person in power, a man or a woman.”
Commisso said the Democratic governor groped her for the first time on Dec. 31, 2019. According to Commisso, Cuomo suggested the two of them take a selfie together.
“He was to my left. I was on the right. With my right hand, I took the selfie. 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, who began working as an executive assistant in the governor’s office in 2017, said this made her so nervous that her hands began to shake, making it difficult for her to even take the picture.
“I was embarrassed,” she said.
Commisso said Cuomo groped her a second time at the governor’s mansion in November 2020.
After shutting the door, “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.’”
Asked about the allegation that he had grabbed Commisso’s breast, Cuomo responded, according to a report from the state attorney general: “I would have to lose my mind to do such a thing” to a woman he hardly knew, with multiple staff members around.
Cuomo has denied touching any women inappropriately and said the groping encounter never happened.
The Associated Press does not generally identify alleged victims of sexual misconduct unless they decide to speak out publicly, as Commisso has done.
The interview aired as Cuomo faces another day under fire.
Scores of Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have urged Cuomo to leave office. About two-thirds of state Assembly members have already said they favor an impeachment trial if he refuses to resign. Only a simple majority vote is needed to begin an impeachment trial.
Cuomo will be going into the fight without his former top aide, Melissa DeRosa.
DeRosa, a steady presence at Cuomo’s side during his months of coronavirus news conferences, resigned late Sunday, saying the past two years had been “emotionally and mentally trying.”
The administration has been in crisis since last week, when a report made public by state Attorney General Letitia James concluded that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women.
Cuomo’s lawyers have attacked the attorney general’s investigation as biased in favor of his female accusers.
At least five district attorneys have asked for materials from the attorney general’s inquiry to see if any of the allegations could result in criminal charges. Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said Saturday that Cuomo could face misdemeanor charges if investigators substantiate Commisso’s complaint.