Then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo developed such a wildcard reputation for dealing with younger women that his top aides stole a page from former Vice President Mike Pence’s playbook and secretly stopped him from meeting one-on-one with them.
The revelation comes in transcripts of top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa’s interview with investigators probing sex harassment allegations lodged against the governor by 11 women, many of who were staffers.
She said the plan was devised in the wake of a bombshell, February 2020 interview in which former Cuomo aide Charlotte Bennett, then 25, said the governor had asked her about her sex life and whether she’d “ever been with an older man,” according to a transcript of her July 5 interview.
Cuomo’s special counsel, Judith Mogul, “thought that it was important that there were always two people together if it was a junior staff person so that there couldn’t be any misperceptions or any conversations that could happen,” DeRosa testified.
DeRosa also said she “took action” when a female staffer — whose name is blacked out from the transcript — was left alone in an office with Cuomo, now 63.
“I called the governor and said that I didn’t think that she should be back there alone; that if [another staffer] wasn’t there anymore, that you should continue the conversation with her later,” she testified.
“Did you tell him why?” lawyer Jennifer Kennedy Park asked.
“No,” DeRosa answered.
“And what did he say?” Kennedy Park asked.
“‘Okay,’” DeRosa said.
“And then what happened,” Kennedy Park asked.
“I believe she left the office,” DeRosa said.
During the questioning, DeRosa also acknowledged being aware of “something called the Graham-Pence rule.”
“What is the Graham-Pence rule?” Kennedy-Park asked.
“That the vice president — former vice president not be left alone with a woman,” DeRosa said.
“Is what Judy was recommending essentially the Graham-Pence rule for the governor?” Kennedy-Park said.
“Sounds similar, yes,” DeRosa said.
In a best-selling 1997 autobiography, “Just As I Am,” the late televangelist Billy Graham recounted how he and a group of fellow preachers got together in Modesto, Calif., in 1948 and discussed “the danger of sexual immorality.”
“We pledged among ourselves to avoid any situation that would have even the appearance of compromise or suspicion,” he wrote.
“From that day on, I did not travel, meet or eat alone with a woman other than my wife.”
Pence — who describes himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order” – told The Hill in 2002 that he adopted a similar credo whereby he never dines alone with a woman other than wife Karen Pence and also doesn’t attend events where booze is served unless she’s with him.
It became widely known as the “Mike Pence rule” after the Washington Post reported on it in 2017.
DeRosa testified pursuant to a subpoena that was part of the probe that found Cuomo allegedly sexually harassed 11 women, including nine current or former state employees, and which forced him to resign under threat of impeachment in August.
The transcripts of her two-day grilling were released this week by state Attorney General Letitia James, who’s seeking the Democratic nomination to run for governor next year.