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Andrew Cuomo used his Catholic faith to avoid marrying long-term girlfriend Sandra Lee

Accused sex pest Andrew Cuomo kept his ‘single-and-ready-to-mingle’ status by using his religion to avoid marriage to live-in girlfriend Sandra Lee for more than a decade, DailyMail.com has learned.

The New York Governor told anyone who asked that as a divorced Roman Catholic he did not feel he could marry again, one close friend said.

But all the time, Lee was pressing him to tie the knot and make her New York’s First Lady. She was so determined to get hitched that she even had a picture of the ring she wanted.

‘It was a huge cushion-cut ring from Bergdorf Goodman,’ a former friend told DailyMail.com exclusively. ‘It was the size of a thumbnail and, as you can imagine, very expensive.

‘We were at dinner — it was fall 2014 just before Andrew got elected to his second term as governor — and she pulled out this carefully folded page she had torn from a high-end magazine and told me that was the ring she wanted him to propose with.

‘But she wanted it changed. I can’t remember whether it was an emerald in the picture and she wanted a sapphire or if it was the other way round, but she wanted it custom made.’

Chef Sandra Lee had been pressing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to get married 10 years during their long-term relationship. Lee was so determined to be First Lady of New York that she even had a picture of the ring she wanted Cuomo to propose with. Pictured together in 2016

In Feburary 2017, Sandra Lee tweeted a photo of herself in a wedding dress, saying: 'I'm having such a lovely time digging through all of this #wedding #Inspiration! What's the most unique thing you've seen done at a wedding?'

In Feburary 2017, Sandra Lee tweeted a photo of herself in a wedding dress, saying: ‘I’m having such a lovely time digging through all of this #wedding #Inspiration! What’s the most unique thing you’ve seen done at a wedding?’

Lee denied to DailyMail.com both that she carried the picture and that her intended used his faith as an excuse. Cuomo did not comment when contacted.

While celebrity chef Lee, now 54, may have had a fantasy marriage in her head, former altar boy Cuomo, 63, was intent on staying single and hit upon his faith as a reason to avoid a second trip down the aisle.

A source tells DailyMail.com that Cuomo told anyone who asked that as a divorced Roman Catholic he did not feel he could marry again. Pictured in 2006

A source tells DailyMail.com that Cuomo told anyone who asked that as a divorced Roman Catholic he did not feel he could marry again. Pictured in 2006

Ironically if he had acceded to Lee’s wishes and they had stayed together, he may not be in the trouble he is now. He allegedly told one of his accusers, former executive assistant Charlotte Bennett, 25, that he was lonely during the pandemic, saying he ‘can’t even hug anyone.’

Neither Cuomo nor Lee immediately responded to DailyMail.com’s requests for comment.

Cuomo, now 63, divorced Kerry Kennedy — Bobby Kennedy’s seventh child — in 2005 two years after he discovered she was having an affair with his close friend, polo player Bruce Colley. They had been married for 15 years and had three daughters.

Even during their marriage he was known as a womanizer.

A New York magazine profile from 2003, shortly after his first gubernatorial campaign, said: ‘Certainly this sense of Andrew’s being too hot to handle became a factor in the campaign. The Clintonian aura attached to him. The flirtatiousness was real. In any given room, he was a serious serial flirter. The intensity — physical, sexual — was ever-present.’

He met newly divorced Lee at a cocktail party in the Hamptons — the New York millionaires’ playground — in the fall of 2005 and their relationship became public the following year when she left California and moved to New York.

But their love progressed at a glacial pace. 

t took Cuomo six years to move into Lily Pond, Lee’s sprawling home in Mt. Kisco, New York, 40 miles north of Manhattan, and a further three years before Lee talked about the ring she wanted.

‘She really wanted to be First Lady of New York,’ said the former friend. ‘I always felt she was jealous of Andrew’s close relationship with his mother Matilda — who of course had been First Lady when Mario Cuomo was Governor.’

Cuomo is pictured being sworn in as governor in 2010, with Sandra by his side, his daughters and parents Mario and Matilda Cuomo  by his side. 'I always felt [Sandra] was jealous of Andrew's close relationship with his mother Matilda ¿ who of course had been First Lady when Mario Cuomo was Governor,' the source said

Cuomo is pictured being sworn in as governor in 2010, with Sandra by his side, his daughters and parents Mario and Matilda Cuomo  by his side. ‘I always felt [Sandra] was jealous of Andrew’s close relationship with his mother Matilda — who of course had been First Lady when Mario Cuomo was Governor,’ the source said 

Sandra Lee is seen for the first time since explosive sexual misconduct allegations against Cuomo

Sandra Lee was seen for the first time Sunday since the explosive sexual misconduct allegations came out against Cuomo. She moved to Malibu after selling the New York home they shared 

'Over the recent past, we have realized that our lives have gone in different directions and our romantic relationship has turned into a deep friendship,' the couple said in a joint statement announcing their split

‘Over the recent past, we have realized that our lives have gone in different directions and our romantic relationship has turned into a deep friendship,’ the couple said in a joint statement announcing their split 

The relationship limped on for another five years after the ring incident. Cuomo and Lee finally announced that they were splitting in 2019. 

‘Over the recent past, we have realized that our lives have gone in different directions and our romantic relationship has turned into a deep friendship,’ they said in a joint statement.

The decision came as little surprise as Lee had not been seen next to Cuomo’s side in a year and for the first time she missed his 2019 State of the State address.

Cuomo, 63, divorced Kerry Kennedy (pictured together) in 2005 two years after he discovered she was having an affair with his close friend. They have three daughters together

Cuomo, 63, divorced Kerry Kennedy (pictured together) in 2005 two years after he discovered she was having an affair with his close friend. They have three daughters together

Lee sold her Mt. Kisco home last year for $1.85 million. ‘My last moments on Lily Pond were very BitterSweet,’ she tweeted — the home is on Bittersweet Lane. ‘I walked around the outside of my beautiful home — I wanted to drink in every angle and remember the beautiful moments that were spent in every place.’

She has now moved to an oceanfront home in Malibu, California, while Cuomo is living full-time in the Executive Mansion in Albany.

Lee was born to a teen mom in Santa Monica, California. As her family disintegrated, she moved to Washington State and Wisconsin where, according to her autobiography, she witnessed her father rape his new girlfriend. 

The family was originally Seventh-Day Adventist but her mother became a Jehovah’s Witness when Sandra was a pre-teen. She converted to Judaism when she married first husband, KB Homes boss Bruce Karatz.

Cuomo has had a contentious relationship with his church. While he touts his faith, he has drawn anger from bishops for his support for abortion and marriage equality and for cohabiting with Lee. He was also attacked for his pandemic rule banning gatherings which included religious services.

Cuomo and Lee finally announced that they were splitting in 2019 and he moved out of her sprawling New York estate called Lily Pond

Cuomo and Lee finally announced that they were splitting in 2019 and he moved out of her sprawling New York estate called Lily Pond

Lee sold her Mt. Kisco home last year for $1.85 million. She has now moved to an oceanfront home in Malibu, California, while Cuomo is living full-time in the Executive Mansion in Albany

Lee sold her Mt. Kisco home last year for $1.85 million. She has now moved to an oceanfront home in Malibu, California, while Cuomo is living full-time in the Executive Mansion in Albany

Andrew Cuomo used his Catholic faith to avoid marrying long-term girlfriend Sandra Lee

‘My last moments on Lily Pond were very BitterSweet,’ she said — the home is on Bittersweet Lane. ‘I walked around the outside of my beautiful home — I wanted to drink in every angle and remember the beautiful moments that were spent in every place’

Three women have now accused Cuomo of inappropriate behavior. 

He appeared close to tears as he apologized during a virtual press conference on Wednesday but said he would not resign and urged people to reserve judgment on him until an inquiry into his behavior is complete.

‘I feel awful about it and frankly I am embarrassed by it,’ he said as he choked up. ‘That’s not easy to say. That’s the truth.

‘This is what I want you to know and I want you to know this from me directly: I never touched anyone inappropriately.’

He also defended his touchy-feely ways, saying hugging and kissing were his ‘customary way of greeting people’ and that it’s what his father, Mario Cuomo, also did.

Lindsey Boylan, 36, a former New York State economic development officer, said the governor forcibly kissed her on the lips in his Manhattan office and asked her to play strip poker with him on his taxpayer funded jet on a flight back from western New York.

Boylan said Cuomo ‘has created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected.

‘His inappropriate behavior toward women was an affirmation that he liked you, that you must be doing something right, she wrote on Medium.com. 

‘He used intimidation to silence his critics. And if you dared to speak up, you would face consequences.’

Boylan’s accusations were backed up by Bennett, who said that she was in Cuomo’s office in Albany, on June 5 last year, when he asked her if she thought age made a difference in relationships and said he was open to having affairs with women in their 20s.

‘I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,’ said Bennett, who was an executive assistant and health policy advisor in the Cuomo administration before she quit in November.

‘I was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.’

Andrew Cuomo used his Catholic faith to avoid marrying long-term girlfriend Sandra Lee

Photos taken in September 2016 show New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, 63, getting cozy with his closest aide Melissa DeRosa, 38, at dinner

Charlotte Bennett, 25, accused Cuomo of sexually harassing her during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in his Albany office, including quizzing her about dating older men

Lindsey Boylan accused him of attempting to kiss her on the mouth in 2018

Charlotte Bennett (left), 25, accused Cuomo of sexually harassing her during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in his Albany office, including quizzing her about dating older men. Lindsey Boylan (right) accused him of attempting to kiss her on the mouth in 2018

Then former Obama administration official Anna Ruch, 33, who had never met Cuomo before, said they were at a wedding in September 2019 when he put his hand on her bare lower back and she instantly removed it. He then cupped her face in his hands and asked if he could kiss her.

‘I was so confused and shocked and embarrassed,’ Ruch told the New York Times. ‘I turned my head away and didn’t have words in that moment.’

Over the weekend two more women came forward. Former spokeswoman Karen Hinton, 62, said Cuomo gave her a ‘very long, too long, too tight, too intimate’ embrace in a Los Angeles hotel room in 2000, while he was Bill Clinton’s Housing and Urban Development Secretary.

And Ana Liss, 35, a policy aide said he had called her ‘sweetheart,’ kissed her hand and asked if she had a boyfriend. ‘It’s not appropriate, really, in any setting, she told the Wall Street Journal

Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Cuomo told the paper: ‘Reporters and photographers have covered the governor for 14 years watching him kiss men and women and posing for pictures. At the public open-house mansion reception, there are hundreds of people, and he poses for hundreds of pictures. That’s what people in politics do.

Added to the harassment accusations, DailyMail.com last week published exclusive pictures of a cozy dinner Cuomo had with Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa in 2016. DeRosa denies anything untoward was going on.

Cuomo — who at one stage was being touted as America’s Governor for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic — has seen his approval rating plummet over the past few weeks as the harassment scandal has grown and his administration has admitted it deliberately underreported the number of COVID deaths in the state’s nursing homes.

A Marist College poll released last Tuesday said only 49 percent of New Yorkers approved of his job performance. In a similar poll in July last year that figure stood at 66 percent.

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