The head of the country’s largest LGBT advocacy organization is facing calls to resign over his alleged role in an effort to discredit a woman who has accused New York’s governor. Andrew Cuomo on sexual harassment.
Human rights campaign chairman Alfonso David, who served as a top adviser to the embattled governor from 2015-2019, was mentioned dozens of times in a report released Tuesday by the New York attorney general’s office that concluded Cuomo sexually harassed nearly a dozen women and violated the law. . Cuomo denied any wrongdoing in a video statement following the report was released and said he would issue his own report “to share the truth.”
LGBTQ advocates Calling for David to step down says they are particularly concerned about several incidents in December that they claim show David aided in efforts to discredit one of the governor’s accusers. Most of the incidents mentioned in the report occurred while David was president of the Human Rights Campaign.
David from Cuomo called for his resignation The Tuesday following the report was released, he told NBC News in an email Thursday that the results “made me ailing to my stomach.”
“I was not aware of any allegations of sexual misconduct, and no one reported them to me, as the report is verifying,” he said. “Of the 11 survivors, I dealt directly with only one, and it was personnel matters that had nothing to do with sexual misconduct.”
The report verifies that no one reported allegations of sexual misconduct to David while he was the governor’s chief advisor, and that he only had contact with one of Cuomo’s accusers, Lindsey Boylan, regarding personnel matters. According to the report, David first learned of Boylan’s allegations in December 2020 – when he was head of the Human Rights Campaign. Boylan is the center of most of the incidents described in the report that involved David.
File, phone call, message
Boylan, a previous Cuomo employee who has accused the governor’s office of trying to slander, tweeted December 3. 5 that the work environment in the governor’s office was “non-toxic”.
A few days later, on December 11th. 13, Cuomo publicly accused of sexual harassment on Twitter, writing, “NYGovCuomo sexually harassed me for years.”
After Boylan first began tweeting about the governor in beforetime December, Melissa DeRosa, the governor’s secretary, asked David for a confidential staff file on Boylan since he was in the executive room, according to emails and text messages in the report. David, who met Boylan following other employees filed complaints against Boylan, directed DeRosa to the governor’s acting attorney, who shared the entire file with DeRosa, according to the report.
DeRosa did not respond to a request for comment and did not issue a public response to the attorney general’s report.
A few days later, David provided additional documents “related to his investigation and advice” to Boylan regarding personnel matters, according to David’s testimony. He sent the documents to Richard Azopardi, Cuomo’s senior deputy director of communications and chief adviser at the time, and tested that he kept a copy of the documents even following leaving his job as Cuomo’s chief consultant because “it was probably the only case that [he] He was already involved in advising an employee when [he] He was in the executive room,” the report said.
In an attempt to discredit Boylan, Cuomo aides later leaked the file — which included the documents David shared — to a number of news outlets, along with a statement that her allegations were “unfounded,” according to the report.
The report does not claim that David was involved in the decision to leak the file.
In another alleged incident described in the report, Cuomo aides – including David – pressured a previous employee to contact a woman named Caitlin, who had tweeted in support of Boylan following she initially tweeted her accusations. DeRosa’ was looking for information about whether [Kaitlin] He was working with Lindsay [Boylan] Or if she has allegations against the governor,” the report states. Investigators also claim that David was involved in discussions about the recording of the call, although a source familiar with the situation told NBC News that David does not remember having any such conversations and does not know Caitlin, whose final name is not included in the report.
Caitlin Cuomo was not accused of harassment at the time, though she later said the governor caught her at a fundraiser and made her feel uncomfortable at work, the report said.
In another alleged incident around December. 15, David participated in distributing a letter or editorial that “denied the legitimacy of the lady. According to the report, Boylan’s allegations were discredited and her allegations were attacked as politically motivated.”
Although the letter was never published or transmitted, investigators found that its “content was shared with a big number of current and previous Executive Chamber employees who were unaware of the information contained in it”, and that the way the governor’s office responded to Boylan’s letter allegedly amounts to To the point of illegal revenge.
David testified that he told DeRosa “he was not signing the letter but was willing to reach out to others to see if they would sign it,” according to the report, though DeRosa testified that David later said he would sign it if necessary. The report says that David, among others, “sent or read drafts of the letter to a number of other previous Executive Chamber employees asking them to sign it or asking them to aid convince others to sign it.”
He later remarked that “Mr. David tested that he did not agree to attach his name to the statement because he did not know whether the statements in it were true and did not think it was a pleasing response.”
Roberta Kaplan, an attorney who successfully argued the landmark Supreme Court case that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, also saw the letter, according to investigators, and showed it to Tina Chen, head of advocacy at Time’s Up, a charity that supports sexual harassment victims.
Kaplan did not respond to a request for comment, but told the Washington Post she had “made it very clear that any response should never shame the accused.”
“Given what was revealed in the New York attorney general’s report, I support and agree with Time’s Up that Governor Cuomo should resign,” she added.
In a series of tweets on Wednesday, chen . books It did not provide advice to the governor or his team.
She wrote: “I am angry that the governor’s office used me and the Times Up as justification for their defense.” TIME’S UP is an organization that forever focuses on survivors while holding those who commit harm to account. Any description of us to the contrary is simply not true.”
The alike source familiar with the situation told NBC News that even following reviewing the letter slandering Boylan, David refused to sign it because he was unaware of many of the references in the letter. The source also confirmed David’s claim that he had not been notified of allegations of sexual misconduct by any survivors the office might have been aware of.
Pressure from advocates and officials
According to press reports, David is facing pressure from some workers in the human rights campaign to step down. At an all-employee meeting on Wednesday, employees asked him to resign multiple times, according to The Washington Post and HuffPost, which are said to have obtained an audio recording of the meeting. The Commission on Human Rights has not responded to requests from NBC News seeking to verify these reports.
A few officials and advocates have publicly called for David to resign.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat running for re-election, wrote on Twitter that she would not accept “donations or campaign support” from the Human Rights Campaign “until there is a unused president for this organization.” Nessell, a lesbian abroad, was the first openly gay person elected to statewide office in Michigan.
“This is not the considerate of leadership I want to see at the top of the gay movement,” said civil rights attorney Alejandra Carabalo.
“Our movement should have a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment and for those who maim survivors,” said Paul Southwick, an attorney representing LGBT students in a class action lawsuit against the Department of Education.
Senator. Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, sent a letter to the senator. Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, regarding David’s inclusion in the attorney general’s report. Grassley, who served as a senior member of the commission, requested that the letter be entered into the commission’s official record for a March hearing on the Equality Act, which David tested in its favour. The Equality Act is sweeping federal legislation that would provide protections against discrimination for LGBT people in many areas of life and has been frozen in the Senate since the hearing.
The New York Attorney General’s findings on Mr. Grassley wrote in the letter published Thursday, “David is pertinent to the record of this Senate hearing, as the potential negative effects of the Equality Act on Women and Girls were an significant aspect of the hearing’s discussion.”
Grassley wrote: “It is deeply concerning that Mr. David, who claims to speak on behalf of victims of discrimination and retaliation, has reportedly played some role in retaliating against a woman victim of sexual harassment.”
On Tuesday, the day prior the reported staff meeting and the alike day the New York attorney general’s report was released, the HRC Foundation Board announced that it would extend David’s contract for another five years, according to a joint statement shared with the Washington Blade. and other news outlets.
The HRC board did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment on the attorney general’s report, but HRC Chairman Jodi Patterson and HRC Chairman Morgan Cox told Washington Blade in a statement Wednesday, following David’s contract extension, that they have “packed confidence in Alfonso David”. as head of the organisation.
“In recognition of his extraordinary leadership during extremely firm times, we are elated to extend his contract to remain in office for another five years,” they said in a statement sent to Blade in response to inquiries about the attorney general’s report. “For the former two years, he has been boldly leading the organization as it works to accomplish its mission: packed equality for all LGBTI people, in the midst of a global pandemic, a national reckoning for racial justice, and the most significant presidential election of our lives.”