New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has acknowledged for the first time that some of his behaviour with women had been “misinterpreted as unwanted flirtation”.
And he said he would cooperate with a sexual harassment investigation led by the state’s attorney general.
In a statement released amid mounting criticism from within his own party, the Democrat maintained he had never inappropriately touched or propositioned anyone.
But he said he had teased people and made jokes about their personal lives in an attempt to be “playful”.
“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that,” he said.
He made the comments after the state’s attorney general demanded Mr Cuomo grant her the authority to investigate claims he sexually harassed at least two women who worked for him.
Mr Cuomo’s legal counsel said the governor would back a plan to appoint an outside lawyer as a special independent deputy attorney general.
Top Democrats appeared to be abandoning Mr Cuomo in large numbers as he tried to retain some say over who would investigate his workplace conduct.
Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat who has been, at times, allied with Mr Cuomo but is independently elected, appeared to emerge as a consensus choice to lead a probe.