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NY Governor Cuomo Holds Press Briefing; Pence Pushes Big Lie in Op-Ed 6 Weeks after Capitol Attack. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 3, 2021 - 13:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): And I will fully cooperate with that review.

Now the lawyers say I shouldn't say anything when you have a pending review until that review is over. I understand that. I'm a lawyer, too. But I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this.

First, I fully support a woman's right to come forward. And I think it should be encouraged in every way.

I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional. And I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it. And, frankly, I am embarrassed by it. And that's not easy to say. But that's the truth.

But this is what I want you to know, and I want you to know this from me directly. I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never touched anyone inappropriately.

I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable. I never knew at the time I was making anyone feel uncomfortable.

And I certainly never ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do.

I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general's report before forming an opinion. Get the facts, please, before forming an opinion.

And the attorney general is doing that review. I will fully cooperate with it. And then you will have the facts. And make a decision when you know the facts.

I also want you to know that I have learned, from what has been an incredibly difficult situation for me, as well as other people. And I've learned an important lesson.

I'm sorry. I'm sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone. I never intended it. And I will be the better for this experience. Thank you.

Questions?

OPERATOR: Thank you, Governor.

If you would like to ask a question, please use the raise-hand function at the bottom of your window.

We'll take a brief moment to compile the Q&A roster.

Governor, your first question comes from Marcia Kramer of WCBS.

Marcia, your line is open. Please unmute your microphone.

MARCIA KRAMER, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, WCBS: Governor, can you hear me?

CUOMO: Marcia Kramer, the dean of the delegation.

KRAMER: So, Governor, I have actually two questions.

First of all, I wonder if given the distractions of these two investigations, especially the one involving sexual harassment, do you feel that you might want to step aside or that you should step aside, especially in negotiating the budget, which could be one of the most important budgets that the state has ever had to deal with?

And my second question has to do with the pictures that have surfaced of you touching -- Anna Ruch.

The reason I'm asking a question is that I've seen pictures of you touching the faces of people all over the state young and old, whatever. And I wonder what you make of those pictures.

CUOMO: Yes. Thank you very much, Marcia.

Let me take both questions. First, you're right about the state budget. It is critically important. The state budget is going to turn the page to the rebuilding phase.

[13:35:01]

We've been working very hard to get funding from Washington to fill the gap. And that has been going well. We have to see what we actually get.

But we then have tremendous financial needs on top of that. People have to pay their rent, they need food, et cetera.

You also have New York City, which is in a very precarious situation. It's teetering, to use a word. Crime is way up. Homelessness is way up. Many people have left New York City -- Hamptons, mid-Hudson Valley, other states.

We have to get New York City functional again and safe again and viable again. We have to do that quickly.

We have a new mayor that's going to be selected basically in June, I guess. Something could happen in November, but basically in June. And that work has to start right away.

So, yes, the budget is very important.

Having said that --

KRAMER: Should you step aside though and let somebody else handle it?

CUOMO: Having said that, I'm going to cooperate with the attorney general's investigation and do the budget.

Remember, we did a budget last year in the spring, in the heat of COVID, where it was the most intense period of my life of this government's life of the state's life. And we did both. And we'll do both here.

On the pictures, Marcia, I understand the opinion of and feelings of Ms. Ruch. And you are right. You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people, women, men, children, et cetera.

You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people, men, women -- it is my usual and customary way of greeting. You know that because you've watched me for let's just say more years than we care to remember.

By the way, it was my father's way of greeting people. You're the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable, you want to reach out to them.

I do it -- I kiss and hug legislators. I was at an event in Queens the other day. I hugged the pastors and the assembly members who were there. So that is my way to do that.

However, what I also understand is it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter my intent. What it matters is if anybody was offended by it. And I could intend no offense. But if they were offended by it, then it was wrong.

And if they were offended by it, I apologize. And if they were hurt by it, I apologize. And if they felt pain from it, I apologize. I apologize.

I did not intend it. I didn't mean it that way. But if that's how they felt, that's all that matters, and I apologize.

Next question, Operator?

OPERATOR: Governor, your next question comes from Dave Evans from WABC.

Dave, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.

DAVE EVANS, POLITICAL REPORTER, WABC: Can you hear me OK?

CUOMO: Yes, Dave.

EVANS: I just wanted to ask you, with all these calls in the last couple days calling for your resignation from some Democrats, certainly not all Democrats but some Democrats, is today -- this has been going on for about a week.

Is this your way of saying I'm certainly not resigning?

CUOMO: Yes. Dave, look, some politicians will always play politics, right? That's the nature of the beast. I don't think today is a day for politics.

I wasn't elected by politicians. I was elected by the people of the state of New York. I'm not going to resign. I work for the people of the state of New York. They elected me and I'm going to serve the people of the state of New York.

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And, by the way, we have a full plate. We have COVID. We have recovery. We have rebuilding. We have a teetering New York City. We have a terrible financial picture. We have to do vaccines.

So, no, I'm going to do the job the people of the state elected me to do.

Next question, Operator.

OPERATOR: Governor, your next question comes from Andrew Siff of WNBC.

Andrew, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.

ANDREW SIFF, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, WNBC: Governor, good afternoon. Two questions.

The first is, given how contrite you've been today, why did it take a week for you to go before the cameras when people have noted your absence for so many days?

My second question is, what assurances can you provide New Yorkers that there are not other accusers who worked for you who will lodge similar complaints to the two that have already been alleged?

CUOMO: Yes. Two things, Andrew. I apologized several days ago. I apologize today. I will apologize tomorrow. I will apologize the day after.

And I want New Yorkers to understand because this is more the facts will come out in the attorney general's review.

But I want them to understand the emotion. Because it's really for me as much about the emotion.

I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable. I never ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone pain.

I feel terrible that these people felt uncomfortable, felt hurt, felt pain from the interactions. And I'm embarrassed by it, and I feel bad from it.

I'm not in this business to make people feel uncomfortable. I'm here to make them to help them. That's the essence of what I do what I do.

I do not believe I have ever done anything in my public career that I am ashamed of. I didn't know I was making her uncomfortable at the time. I feel badly that I did. And I've learned from it.

Marcia asked me about my usual custom is to kiss and to hug and make that gesture. I understand that sensitivities have changed and behavior has changed. And I get it, and I'm going to learn from it.

Next question.

OPERATOR: Governor, your next question comes from Karina Gerry of WUTR.

Karina, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.

KARINA GERRY, CORRESPONDENT, WUTR: Thank you, Governor. Hi, how are you?

CUOMO: Good. How are you?

GERRY: I'm good.

So I actually have two questions.

My first one is, if a member of your administration had done what you are currently accused of and have admitted to you, what would you tell them and what would be a satisfactory disposition for you?

CUOMO: Well, let's be clear on the facts. First, we haven't gotten the facts. Let the attorney general do a review and let's get the facts. And that's what I said in my statement to New Yorkers.

I'm a former attorney general. I've been through a situation too many times where everybody has an opinion because they read this, they read this. Then, all of a sudden, the facts come out and it's a different situation. So wait for the facts before you form an opinion.

And, as I said, my behavior here, I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable.

And if I ever did make people feel uncomfortable, which I now understand that I have, I apologize for it. But then let the attorney general's office actually review the facts.

Next.

GERRY: Yes, thank you. CUOMO: Thank you.

Next question, Operator?

OPERATOR: Governor, your next question comes from Jeff Kulikowsky of WSYR.

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Jeff, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.

JEFF KULIKOWSKY, CO-ANCHOR, WSYR: Hi, Governor.

I was curious -- and I know you had said and apologized several times this afternoon. Who were you apologizing to?

CUOMO: I was apologizing to the young woman who worked here who said that I made her feel uncomfortable. And in the workplace.

KULIKOWSKY: Were you also speaking to New Yorkers, Governor?

CUOMO: Oh, to New Yorkers, I am saying that I'm embarrassed by what happened.

My -- I wear a pin that says "Pride, Integrity, Performance." That's what it says on the pin. You can't read it, "Pride, Integrity, Performance."

So I am embarrassed that someone felt that way in my administration. I'm embarrassed and hurt. And I apologize that somebody who interacted with me felt that way.

Again, I didn't know at the time I was making her feel uncomfortable. I never meant to.

But that doesn't matter. If a person feels uncomfortable, if a person feels pain, if a person is offended, I feel very badly about that, and I apologize for it.

There's no but. You know, it's I'm sorry.

Let's take one more question, Operator.

OPERATOR: Governor, your next question comes from Jennifer Lewki of WHEC.

Jennifer, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.

JENNIFER LEWKI, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, WHEC: Good afternoon, Governor.

I actually have two questions. One for you and one for Melissa.

Governor, have you yourself taken the sexual harassment training required by New York that all employers are to give to their employees? And, Melissa, as the highest-ranking woman in state government right

now, and someone who interacts with the governor on a daily basis, how do you feel about these allegations against him?

And what is your message to women who see you in your position and see these allegations against the governor?

CUOMO: The short answer is yes. And I'll turn it over to Melissa.

Just keep in mind, there are hundreds and hundreds of people who work with Melissa. We have more senior women in this administration than probably any administration in history.

But I'll ask Melissa to respond.

MELISSA DEROSA, SECRETARY TO THE GOVERNOR: Again, I would just ask that everyone refrain from judgment until the attorney general's allowed to do her work. We've asked her to come in. Everyone's going to fully comply with that.

But I am incredibly proud of the work that this administration has done to further women's rights, to expand protections for women in the workplace, out of the workplace, maternal health, reproductive health. The list goes on and on and on.

And I am also proud that, in my time as secretary, we've seen more women rise to highest levels in terms of commissioners and senior staff levels. And we've promoted each other and we've supported one another. And I don't think that this diminishes any of that.

And I look forward to continuing the work that we're doing in order to continue to further women's agenda and strengthen women's rights for all New Yorkers.

CUOMO: Thank you very much. Have a good day.

COVID numbers are good.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: All right. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York saying I'm not going to resign. Of course, he is now facing from three different women allegations of sexual harassment.

He dealt with some of that today in a little bit more lengthy way than we'd seen in his written statement.

I want to discuss this now with CNN's Dana Bash and Athena Jones, and David Freedlander, who is a contributor to "New York Magazine."

Dana, he says he's not going anywhere. He says he never touched anyone inappropriately, which is what one of the women has alleged, actually two of them have alleged.

And I just wonder what your takeaway was from this here and if this is going to hold.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. I mean, is this going to hold? What the governor wanted to put across there, clearly, attrition, that he is sorry. He said he is sorry in many, many different ways.

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And what he said he was sorry for was making people feel uncomfortable. That was not his intention, he said.

But he was very careful to say explicitly that he did not ever touch anybody inappropriately. He said, I never -- he said explicitly I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never touched anyone inappropriately.

You know, he understands that that is, you know -- none of this is comfortable. None of this is OK, especially in a post-#metoo era.

But it's one thing for anybody in the workplace to say things that makes people feel uncomfortable, particularly when it's sexual in nature, and it's a whole different thing, from his perspective, clearly, in reading what he said today, that, if you actually touch somebody inappropriately.

You know, he did say very explicitly he's not going to resign. He is putting this entirely in the -- in the lap of and the purview of the attorney general of New York, and says, you know, we're going to wait and see what happens there.

You know, we hadn't seen him on-camera in about a week. And he, you know, kind of punted the question specifically on that, saying that he has put out written statements, which is true.

But I think one of the most interesting things as I was listening to him was that these allegations are, you know, again, not from -- a long time ago, like Al Franken, who ended up, was forced to resign, or others.

This is in the, in the awakening that everybody has had in the post- #metoo era and that I think is a big difference.

KEILAR: Certainly, something that stood out to me as well, Dana. Seemed as though the woman whose allegations he specifically seemed to respond to with an apology was Charlotte Bennett, who spoke to the "New York Times."

And, David, I wonder what you think about this? She alleges this happened in June. This is certainly post-#metoo. Certainly, the era of understanding what is acceptable.

And something that stood out to me that he said was, I didn't know I was making people uncomfortable at the time. But in the case of Charlotte Bennett, there's a possibly particularly troubling detail in her account that contradicts that, if the investigation by the attorney general is to corroborate that.

She told the "New York Times" that he told Cuomo's chief of staff, Jill DesRosiers, that she felt uncomfortable, very soon after the incident, in particular, that made her most uncomfortable.

And said she gave a lengthy statement to the governor's special counsel, Judith Mogul, and that after this was actually transferred to another job as a health adviser on the opposite side of the capitol, from Cuomo.

Is that going to be a problem for him, David?

DAVID FREEDLANDER, CONTRIBUTOR, "NEW YORK MAGAZINE": I mean, I think it might be. You know, we'll have to see, you know, what else comes out here.

But you know, the governor's response in a way was sort of, I'm sorry if people felt uncomfortable. That wasn't my intention.

But I mean, why he would ever think it's OK to talk about sex with a 23-year-old underling when you're a 60-year-old governor of New York, I think that's going to be hard to explain.

You know, there's obviously, seems to be a system in place to kind of move her to the other side of the capitol as soon as this happened. So I mean, I think that this - certainly, there are many more questions that need to be answered here.

KEILAR: And, Athena, one thing that stood out as well was the top aide to Cuomo, who spoke at the end, really, you know, championing what he has done, what his administration has done when it comes to women's rights.

Tell us about who she was, is?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. So this is the secretary to the governor. We became familiar with Melissa DeRosa's name related to this COVID deaths in nursing homes scandal.

Because just in the last few weeks, she was reported in a videoconference talking to state Democrats about having put a pause, a freeze on delivering information about COVID deaths to the state legislature. So that's how her name has become prominent.

But she made a point to talk about how proud she was about the work done for women, hiring and promotes a lot of women.

Said I don't think this diminishes any of that and echoing the governor, wait until the facts come out, asking everyone to refrain from judgment, let the attorney general or that investigation under the attorney general do its work.

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So she wanted people to be made aware of the kind of things she feels the Cuomo administration has done for women or behalf of women.

We know Charlotte Bennett, the second accuser, blasted the governor's Sunday night apology, talking about, sorry if people misunderstood him. Seemed he heard that. Wasn't my intention but doesn't matter my intention if people were

hurt I apologize. We heard that at least a dozen times, saying he apologizes even if it wasn't his intention to hurt people.

KEILAR: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: Go on, Dana?

BASH: Can I say one other thing I think is noteworthy now that we are, you know, several years into the reckoning that has happened, that has -- was supposed to have given women a voice.

And maybe even more importantly, men, and some women, but people in the workplace and elsewhere a better understanding of how their actions should be received.

The fact that he was asked at the very end if he engaged in or if he read or was part of the sexual harassment training that I guess every worker in New York is -- is, it's mandatory for them to do and he said, yes. He said, the short answer is, yes.

I'd be curious to see what that training manual is, or how they're told to act or not act in the workplace.

The other quick thing is --

JONES: Sure.

BASH: -- I mentioned Al Franken earlier. And sitting here thinking it was just as the #metoo movement was really at its zenith with everything that was so knew with it.

And Al Franken's fellow Democrats had already been very critical of Republicans and decided it couldn't look like a double standard and pushed him out. He was begging for an independent report and didn't get one.

And now, you know, several years later, you have the governor asking for and getting an independent report before some Democrats definitely called for him to resign, but before most Democrats have gone that far.

KEILAR: A very good point.

I want to thank you all so much for discussing this very important press conference we just saw from Governor Cuomo. Still so many questions we have and certainly this story is far from over.

Thank you.

On January 6th, then-Vice President Mike Pence had a target on his back and it was put there by someone that he was deeply devoted to, then-President Donald Trump. Trump told the rioters descending on the capitol that day that Mike

Pence could turn over the election results if only he had the courage to, which is a lie.

With one minute to spare before armed insurrectionists reached the Senate floor, Pence was moved to safety amid this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Nearly two months later, Pence is still out there pushing the big lie.

In a new op-ed, Pence said the election was, quote, "marked by significant voting irregularities and numerous instances of officials setting aside state election law." And that he is concerned about, quote, "the integrity of the 2020 election."

Patently false. Proved false by Trump's own attorney general, Bill Barr, and Trump's former FBI director, Chris Wray, just yesterday when he said there were no irregularities on a scale that would have changed the outcome of the 2020 election.

CNN's Daniel Dale is with us for a fact-check here.

What else did Pence put out there and what was kind of a lengthy op- ed?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: It was. The primary purpose of this op-ed was an attack on the Democrats election bill known as H.R.-1.

Even leaving aside, Brianna, the big lie stuff about the 2020 election, there was a significant amount of dishonesty just in the H.R.-1 part of the op-ed.

For example, Pence claimed this Democratic bill would ban Voter I.D. nationwide. It would not, in fact, do so.

What it would do is require states that do have Voter I.D. to allow voters who are not presenting you identification to sign, present, a sworn statement attesting to their identity.

Pence can say that requirement weakened states Voter I.D. requirements but doesn't does not ban them.

Pence also claimed anyone who is listed in a government database, state and federal, would have to be added to the voter registration rolls under the automatic registration system of the bill, including millions of undocumented immigrants.

In fact, undocumented immigrants would continue to be prohibited from voting under this bill. Nothing changing federal law limiting voting to U.S. citizens. Now, Pence also claimed the bill would require states to accept, he

said, every mail-in ballot that arrives up to 10 days after the election. This is highly misleading at best.

The bill requires states to accept ballots that were post-marked on or before Election Day, and then arrived up to 10 days after the election,.

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But it would not require states to accept ballots mailed after Election Day and then arrived up to 10 days later.