New York governor’s has admitted some of his behaviour towards women “may have been insensitive or too personal” as he agreed to cooperate with a harassment investigation.
Andrew Cuomo said he had teased people about their personal lives to be “playful” but denied propositioning anyone or any inappropriate touching.
Two women have made claims against Mr Cuomo, one of America’s most prominent state governors.
Former aide Charlotte Bennett told The New York Times on Saturday that he had asked about her sex life, including whether she had ever had sex with older men and if she was monogamous in her relationships.
Ms Bennett, 25, said she took it as gauging her interest in an affair.
Lindsey Boylan, a former economic adviser, has also claimed Mr Cuomo unwantedly kissed her on the mouth and made comments about her appearance.
The 63-year-old Democrat governor has denied any wrongdoing in both cases, but amid growing criticism from his own party has agreed to comply with an investigation by New York’s attorney general.
“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,” he said in a statement.
“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.”
Mr Cuomo added that he often jokes around the office and in public, and cited his banter with the media at press conferences.
Attorney General Letitia James said she expected to have the power to subpoena witnesses and documents, and that an outside law firm would conduct “a rigorous and independent investigation”.
Mr Cuomo’s initial suggestions for who should lead the probe into his own behaviour – which included a retired judge – were rejected.
New York senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand said an independent investigation was vital, with Ms Gillibrand calling the claims “serious and deeply concerning”.
President Joe Biden also supported an independent probe that “should move forward as quickly as possible”, said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
Mr Cuomo was praised for his reaction to the COVID pandemic last year, when New York was the centre of the US outbreak, and his news conferences were a regular feature on news channels.