Aug 9, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Human Rights Campaign opens probe into president's involvement in Cuomo scandal

Photo of Alphonso David speaking from a podium

Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David. Photo: Gary Gershoff via Getty Images for Housing Works, Inc.

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has hired an independent law firm to investigate President Alphonso David's work in helping New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) respond to allegations of sexual harassment, the LGBTQ advocacy organization announced Monday.

Why it matters: The probe comes after a report from investigators appointed by the New York attorney general's office implicated David in Cuomo’s alleged efforts to discredit his accusers. David, who now faces calls to resign, called on Cuomo to step down after the report was made public.

Driving the news: The probe will consider "whether Alphonso David's actions aligned with HRC's mission and values, as well as with professional and ethics standards," according to the group. David has denied all wrongdoing.

  • David is cooperating with the probe, which will take no longer than 30 days, per an HRC statement released Monday. He will continue in his role as president of HRC and the foundation.
  • "This investigation will in no way hinder the organizations’ continued pursuit of the critical work necessary to bring equity and liberation to the LGBTQ+ Community," per the release.

What happened: David, who served as Cuomo's chief counsel before joining HRC, sent one of the accusers' confidential personnel files to an adviser for the governor, according to the report from New York Attorney General Letitia James' office. Some of that information was released to reporters after the accuser made her allegations public, per the report.

  • David said Monday he was legally obligated to share the records as the state's former counsel.
  • David was also consulted about a document drafted by Cuomo and others in the governor's defense. Though he was asked to sign the document, he refused but volunteered to find others who would sign it, per the report.

What they're saying: "We commend the courage of the many survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment who have come forward, and give them our full support," Morgan Cox and Jodie Patterson, board chairs for HRC and the HRC Foundation, respectively, said in Monday's statement.

  • "Over the past several days, HRC’s employees, supporters, board members and partners have raised questions about the appropriateness of Alphonso David’s actions and whether they align with HRC’s decades’ long mission of fighting for equality and justice for all."
  • The statement called David's inclusion in the report "very concerning."

David said in his own statement that he supports the probe: "It is an important effort to ensure the transparency that I have supported and engaged in with the board and staff since I joined this organization."

  • "Multiple inaccuracies have been circulating and therefore this definitive review is important," he said, claiming he did not know the full scope of the allegations against Cuomo until the investigators' report was released.
  • "I appreciate the open dialogue we are having and the support of so many across our organization," he added. "I have been and will always be an ally to survivors everywhere for whom we fight every day."

The big picture: Cuomo, who has denied all accusations, is under criminal investigation over the allegations. He has refused to resign, though he says he'll cooperate with an impeachment investigation.

  • The report has also implicated leadership at Time’s Up, an organization established to fight workplace sexual misconduct. Roberta Kaplan resigned Monday as chair after the report detailed her role in discrediting a woman who accused Cuomo of sexual harassment.
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