Karen Hinton is a former press aide of Andrew M. Cuomo who says he summoned her to his dimly lit hotel room and embraced her after a work event in 2000 when Cuomo led the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and she was a consultant for the agency. Hinton says she pulled away from Cuomo, but he pulled her back toward his body, holding her before she backed away and left the room.

How old is Karen Hinton?

Karen Hinton is 62 years old.

Cuomo Accuser: Karen Hinton Cuomo

The newest accounts of Cuomo’s workplace behavior by former aides in interviews with The Washington Post come after several women have publicly accused the New York governor of inappropriate personal comments or unwelcome physical contact. The allegations have engulfed one of the country’s top Democratic officials in crisis and put a sharp focus on the workplace culture he has fostered during his three decades in public office.

The Post reached out to more than 150 former and current Cuomo staffers, stretching back to his time at HUD in Washington. Most did not respond. Among those who did, the majority spoke on the condition of anonymity, because they said they still fear his wrath and his power to destroy careers.

In a statement, Peter Ajemian, Cuomo’s director of communications, vehemently denied Hinton’s account of her encounter with Cuomo in a hotel room.

“This did not happen,” he said. “Karen Hinton is a known antagonist of the Governor’s who is attempting to take advantage of this moment to score cheap points with made-up allegations from 21 years ago. All women have the right to come forward and tell their story…”

In a news conference Wednesday, Cuomo denied touching women “inappropriately” but apologized if his interactions with women caused offense or pain. He pleaded for the public to wait for the results of a state attorney general-led probe into the claims by two former staffers who said he sexually harassed them.

Karen Hinton Allegations

Former aides said they were infuriated by Cuomo’s attempt to minimize what they described as a pervasive effort to intimidate staff.

In response to the denial of her account, Hinton said “attacking the accuser is the classic playbook of powerful men trying to protect themselves.” She said watching the news conference “drove me crazy” and Cuomo knew better, saying he was regularly flirtatious with women, what she viewed as part of a broader effort to manipulate those around him. “I really thought the flirt wasn’t about having sex,” she said. “It was about controlling the relationship.”

He had contentious disputes with senior aides such as Hinton, who served as a communications official at the agency for 4½ years before moving in 1999 to California with her then-husband, who was there on a military deployment.

Hinton and Cuomo had a bad fight before she left the full-time position at the agency that ended in a screaming fit, she said, with each hurling profanities at the other. Hinton said they argued frequently but inevitably made peace. So when Cuomo made a December 2000 trip to Los Angeles to promote a HUD program to rehabilitate and resell foreclosed homes, she said she agreed to help arrange press coverage as a paid consultant for the agency.

The day went well, she said, with good media turnout. In the evening, Cuomo went back to his room in the hotel where they were both staying to eat dinner, she said. Then she got a phone call from the HUD secretary. “Why don’t you come to my room and let’s catch up?” she recalled him saying.

Hinton — then 42, around the same age as Cuomo — said she initially did not think the request was unusual. Perhaps Cuomo wanted to smooth things over after her rocky departure and discuss press work for the following day, she thought.

But then Cuomo said: “Don’t let Clarence see you,” referring to Clarence Day, his longtime head of security, who regularly stood in the hallway outside Cuomo’s hotel suites. “Clarence will block any woman from coming into my room,” Cuomo said, according to her recollection.

“He is very protective and didn’t want to raise any eyebrows.”

Hinton, who said she had known Day for years, said she found the request strange. But she said she nevertheless went upstairs to his room. The day was at Cuomo’s door when she arrived. “He said, ‘Hey Karen, it’s good to see you,’ ” she recalled.

Karen Hinton Husband

When she went in, Hinton said the lights in the hotel room were dimmed. “I paused for a second,” she said. “Why are the lights so low? He never keeps the lights this low.” She said she and Cuomo sat on opposite couches and talked about HUD, their time together in Washington, and their lives, particularly her marriage at the time, which she said was struggling.

Cuomo asked whether she planned to leave her husband and a number of other personal questions, Hinton said.

“I said, ‘Well it’s tough out here in California. I miss Washington. I don’t connect with this place,’ ” she recalled.

Cuomo told her they needed to stay friends and help each other going forward, Hinton said.

At some point, Hinton said, she grew self-conscious that she had talked so much about her personal life and her marriage. She decided to leave. “I stand up and say, ‘It’s getting late, I need to go,’ ” she said. Cuomo stood up, walked over and embraced her, she recalled.

She described it as “very long, too long, too tight, too intimate.” “It’s not just a hug,” she added. Hinton said she pulled away. “He pulls me back for another intimate embrace,” she said. “I thought at that moment it could lead to a kiss, it could lead to other things, so I just pull away again, and I leave.”

When asked if she viewed the encounter as harassment, Hinton did not explicitly describe it that way but said there was a “power dynamic” at play, even though she was a consultant at the time, not an employee. “It was the same to me,” she said, adding that she was concerned about “the personal and professional problems that could have been created.” She described Cuomo’s move as a “power play” for “manipulation and control.”

She said the two never discussed the episode. They remained in touch and socialized over the years, she said. Her second husband, Howard Glaser, worked for Cuomo at HUD and served as a top deputy to Cuomo in the governor’s mansion for five years.

Since she worked for him at HUD, Hinton has publicly been both complimentary of Cuomo and sharply critical, particularly when she served as press secretary in 2015 and 2016 for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), a staunch Cuomo rival.