New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is joining the call for an immediate investigation into the sexual harassment claims against New York state Sen. Jeff Klein.
The push for an investigation comes only hours after HuffPost published a claim of sexual misconduct against Klein by former staffer Erica Vladimer. The 30-year-old told HuffPost that Klein “shoved his tongue” down her throat at a bar after a budget vote in 2015.
The two went outside to smoke a cigarette, and that’s when she says Klein forced himself on her. After briefly looking over her shoulder, Vladimer said, Klein grabbed her head as she turned back around.
“All of a sudden there was a hand on the back of my head and he shoved his tongue down my throat,” she said. “In my head it lasted forever. I don’t think it lasted even three seconds.”
Vladimer resigned from her position on the Democratic lawmaker’s staff a month after the incident.
Klein and Vladimer were at the Albany bar the night of the incident with Democratic state Sen. Diane Savino, who was dating Klein at the time. Savino said she did not witness the two kissing and denied that the incident occurred.
Klein “unequivocally” denied the accusation in a statement to HuffPost provided by his lawyer.
After the alleged incident, Vladimer said she approached Democratic state Sen. Liz Krueger for advice since the senator has worked for years to protect women in the workplace from harassment. Vladimer said she did not name Klein in her conversation with Krueger at the time.
Cuomo released a statement to the New York Law Journal agreeing with Krueger in calling for the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate the incident.
“Every allegation of sexual misconduct must be taken seriously,” the Democratic governor said in the statement. “I agree with Senator Klein and with Senator Krueger that this disturbing situation should be investigated, and I believe it should be done immediately and independently.”
New York state politics has seen a number of sexual misconduct cases. Cuomo came under fire in December for deflecting the blame onto society to a female reporter who asked what he would do to protect victims of harassment.
“We will have policies in state government, obviously, that affects state government,” Cuomo told the reporter. “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 government; it’s society. There was Harvey Weinstein in the arts industry, it’s comedians, it’s politicians, it’s chefs, right? It’s systemic. It’s societal. It’s not one person in one area. It’s not just Charlie Rose, right? It’s not just Matt Lauer, it’s not just journalists. It’s societal. Understand the breadth of the problem.”