Cuomo calls female reporter's question on sexual assault issue 'a disservice to women'

Dec 13, 2017

Gov. Andrew Cuomo shared a tense exchange with WRVO's capitol correspondent Karen Dewitt Wednesday when she asked what the state was doing to confront sexual assault. The Democratic governor said Dewitt  did "a disservice to women" by minimizing the issue of harassment to state government.

Dewitt was asking about Sam Hoyt, a former assemblyman and head of regional economic development under the Cuomo administration who paid a woman  $50,000 in exchange for her ending accusations of sexual harassment against him.

“What can you do differently to kind of pick up on that,” Dewitt asked.

“Well look, you have it going on in journalism,” Cuomo said. “What are you going to do differently?”

“But the question is about state government,” another reporter inserted.

“I can tell you later in great detail about that if you’re interested,” Dewitt said.

“No it’s about you and journalism,” Cuomo said. “And it’s about state government, and it’s about carpentry and it’s about trade forces.”

“Is your administration going to do anything differently to maybe be a little more aware,” Dewitt asked.

“We will have policies in state government, obviously, that affect state government,” Cuomo said. “But I think you miss the point. When you say it's state government, you do a disservice to women - with all due respect - even though you're a woman. It's not state government, it's society. Acknowledge the breadth of it." 

Cuomo noted that the problem goes far beyond government and affects women in all industries and areas of society. The governor says he is putting forward proposals to address sexual harassment in his state of the state address next month, like a plan to take away all firearms from New Yorkers who are convicted of domestic violence crimes,  including misdemeanors.

According to the governor's office, Cuomo called DeWitt later on Wednesday to apologize for his comments. DeWitt said she accepted the governor's apology. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.