New Cuomo ad claims exoneration, draws rebuke from women's groups

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Former Governor Andrew Cuomo's team has launched a new advertisement in what appears to be an attempt to clear his name.

The 30-second ad, titled "Politics vs. the Law," claims Cuomo has been exonerated from charges he sexually harassed multiple women.

Cuomo resigned last summer after a damning report from Attorney General Letitia James, and his team said the ad was created to "update New Yorkers on the rejection of the attorney general's findings by five separate district attorneys as well as expose revelations of the prosecutorial misconduct behind her report."

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"Accusations fly around the world at the speed of light, but the truth crawls at a snail's pace," Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said. "We will continue to communicate the facts to New Yorkers: The AG knowingly and willfully ignored evidence of perjury, witness tampering and extortion, and hid exculpatory evidence when she misled the public in her sham report last August."

In response, Attorney General Letitia James issued a statement blasting the ad.

"The only thing Andrew Cuomo has proven himself to be is a serial sexual harasser and a threat to women in the workplace, no TV ad can change that," she said. "It's shameful that after multiple investigations found Cuomo's victims to be credible, he continues to attack their accounts rather than take responsibility for his own actions."

Nine women's rights organizations called on Cuomo to take responsibility and accused him of spreading misinformation.

"Instead of accepting responsibility, serial sexual harasser Andrew Cuomo continues to challenge the accounts of victims," the organizations said in a statement. "Multiple investigations have found the accounts of these women to be credible. The media should stop giving a platform to abusers like Cuomo. As evidenced by recent public polling, New Yorkers believe the women who bravely came forward about Cuomo's abuse; they think Cuomo was right to leave office in disgrace. This attempt to claim exoneration won't work. Shame on serial sexual harasser Andrew Cuomo."

The organizations signing the statement include:

--Jenna Bimbi, Executive Director, NY Birth Control Action Fund
--Liuba Grechen Shirley, Founder and CEO, Vote Mama
--Kathleen Landy, Executive Director, The Feminist Institute
--Catherine Lederer-Plaskett, President/Chair, WCLA - Choice Matters
--Sophie Nir, Executive Director, Eleanor's Legacy
--Jamila Pringle-Fynes, President, NYC Black Women's Political Club
--Heidi Sieck, Co-Founder and CEO, #VoteProChoice
--Marti Speranza Wong, Executive Director, Amplify Her
--The Executive Leadership Team, Women of Color for Progress

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Eyewitness News reporter Kristin Thorne attempted to speak on camera with James at an event Monday afternoon in Long Island City. James said she would not comment on camera about the ad and referred Eyewitness News to her office's written statement.

Political strategist Hank Sheinkopf said if the ad helps Cuomo's reputation, we may be seeing more ads by him.

"Everyone has a future in politics no matter what they've done," he said. "Don't count Andrew Cuomo out."

One of Cuomo's accusers, Charlotte Bennett, said on Instagram that Cuomo is lying to himself and to everyone else.

"To perpetuate this Big Lie, he spends his time and money seeking press coverage through retaliatory powerpoints and misleading TV ads," she wrote.

Attorney Gloria Allred represented one of the women who accused Cuomo of sexual harassment. She said she worries that people will assume that because the district attorneys did not prosecute Cuomo that the claims against him aren't true.

"In some way, it (the ad) suggests that perhaps the accusers who made these allegations should not have been believed by the Attorney General of New York because the failure to prosecute has nothing to do with that," she said.

Eyewitness News asked Cuomo's spokesperson if the former governor has any future plans. Rich Azzopardi said Cuomo is focused right now on making sure New Yorkers know the truth about the Attorney General's investigation and the "future is the future."

Cuomo's advertisement will air statewide on both broadcast and cable television, as well as digitally.

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