Andrew Cuomo had formally referred himself for investigation Monday over sexual misconduct allegations by two former aides, when a third woman came forward on Tuesday accusing of sexual harassment.

A billboard urging New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign is seen near downtown on March 2, 2021 in Albany, New York. The governor is facing calls to resign after three women have come forward accusing him of unwanted advances.
A billboard urging New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign is seen near downtown on March 2, 2021 in Albany, New York. The governor is facing calls to resign after three women have come forward accusing him of unwanted advances. (Matthew Cavanaugh / AFP)

Embattled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is facing a growing fight for his political future after a third woman accused him of inappropriate behaviour.

The Democrat, who shot to national prominence last year for his state's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, is under mounting pressure to resign over the sexual harassment scandal.

Already facing heat over accusations he deliberately underreported Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes, Cuomo formally referred himself for investigation on Monday over sexual misconduct allegations by two former aides.

On Tuesday, Anna Ruch, 33, told the New York Times that she met the now 63-year-old Cuomo at a wedding in September 2019.

During the reception, he put his hand on her bare lower back, which she pushed away, and asked if he could kiss her.

"I was so confused and shocked and embarrassed," Ruch, who did not work for Cuomo, told the Times. "I turned my head away and didn't have words in that moment."

The newspaper published a photo showing the governor holding a visibly uncomfortable Ruch by the cheeks.

READ MORE: NY Governor Cuomo's accuser dismisses apology, says he's a predator

An increasing number of Democrats and Republicans have joined Cuomo's accusers in calling for the three-term governor to quit.

Sam Abrams, a political science professor at Sarah Lawrence College, said the third accuser "makes it much harder" for Cuomo to stay around.

"He is a fighter and will clear his name if it's believed to be a misunderstanding," Abrams said.

"But if he loses the support of the party, and that is happening, he has no future or fourth term."

Cuomo became a star last spring with his straight-talking yet empathetic coronavirus briefings that contrasted sharply with then-president Donald Trump's dismissive approach to the pandemic.

Some Democrats even urged him to run for the White House, with many commentators tipping him for a role in President Joe Biden's administration.

But his stock now appears to have never been lower.

Ruch's testimony came just days after former aide Charlotte Bennett told the New York Times that he sexually harassed her last year.

Bennett, 25, said that Cuomo told her in June that he was open to dating women in their 20s, and asked her if she thought age made a difference in romantic relationships, the Times said.

While Cuomo never tried to touch her, "I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared," she said.

Bennett's allegations Saturday came just four days after another ex-aide, Lindsey Boylan, described unwanted physical contact from Cuomo when she worked for his administration, from 2015 to 2018.

Boylan, 36, alleged that the governor had given her an unsolicited kiss on the lips, suggested that they play strip poker and went "out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs."

Probe into misconduct 

Cuomo said Sunday he was "truly sorry" if his conduct had ever been "misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation." He denied ever inappropriately touching or propositioning anyone.

Cuomo, who is loathed by many on the left-wing of the Democratic Party, was slammed for the wording of his apology.

He bowed to pressure for an independent probe into the misconduct claims, which will be led by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The findings will be disclosed in a public report on a yet unknown date.

Cuomo has led New York for ten years and is widely believed to covet a fourth term when his current one ends in 2022, to surpass his father Mario Cuomo, who served for three terms.

Analysts say he isn't the type to quit, and garnering support for his impeachment in the New York state legislature would be difficult with lawmakers likely to side with their party rather than the wider #MeToo movement.

They expect him to try to ride out the scandal until the results of the investigation are published.

"If it's really bad for him, then he either resigns or gets impeached," said Columbia University politics expert Lincoln Mitchell.

Source: AFP