New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer is facing accusations he repeatedly harassed and groped a former intern on a 2001 campaign. Stringer has forcefully denied the claims, which are a major threat to his flagging mayoral campaign with less than two months left until he competes in the all-important Democratic Party.
There’s never a good time for a scandal, and the sexual harassment accusations leveled against Stringer on Tuesday evening could not have come at a worst time for his campaign, which is relying on the support of progressives.
The allegations were initially revealed in a press release sent Tuesday evening by Patricia Pastor, who is representing the alleged victim, Jean Kim.
“A woman who worked as an unpaid intern on the political campaign of Scott Stringer… has disclosed that Stringer groped her, repeatedly touched her sexually without her consent, made multiple sexual advances toward her which she rejected, told her not to tell anyone about the sexual misconduct, and offered to get her a role as District Leader,” Pastor’s announcement said.
Pastor also provided the local news site Gothamist with a statement from Kim where she accused Stringer of groping her on multiple occasions. Kim, who went on to work in politics, claimed she did not come forward previously because she was afraid of Stringer’s “vindictive nature.”
"I have tried my best to put this chapter of my life behind me, but I am coming forward now because being forced to see him in my living room TV everyday pretending to be a champion for women’s rights sickens me when I know the truth," Kim said.
Pastor, who plans to hold a press conference today at 11 a.m., did not respond to subsequent requests for comment.
Stringer responded with a statement of his own.
"I firmly believe that all survivors of harassment have the right to come forward,” Stringer said. “I will reserve further comment until this person has had the opportunity to share their story. For now, let me say without equivocation: these allegations are untrue and do not reflect my interactions with anyone, including any woman or member of my staff."
That statement — with its attempt to express solidarity with harassment victims coupled with a firm denial — illustrates how delicate this situation is for Stringer. Recent polls showed him third place in the crowded field that’s being dominated by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
With his campaign off to a slow start, the best case for a comeback is based on his perceived potential strengths, which include a longtime political base among some of the city’s most reliable voters on the Upper West Side and key endorsements from progressive groups and elected officials (including some prominent young lawmakers of color). But those same allies have been particularly vocal about believing — and aggressively responding — to alleged sexual harassment.
Shortly after Pastor’s press release went out, a New York City political operative who is not working on one of the mayoral campaigns called The Uprising and said the big question is how Stringer’s progressive allies would respond. This person pointed out that many of the most prominent Stringer backers — including State Senator Jessica Ramos, Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, State Senator Julia Salazar, and State Senator Gustavo Rivera — were vocal in calling for Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign when he faced a spate of sexual harassment and assault allegations.
“He has all these people who called on the governor to resign,” the operative said. “I want to know where they’re at. “This is gut check time. I want to see where those progressives go.”
As of now, the situation is obviously far different than Cuomo’s since there’s only one accuser. But so far, Stringer’s backers are keeping quiet. The Uprising reached out to each of those lawmakers and none responded apart from Rivera, who declined to comment. Some of the lawmakers who are normally vocal presences on social media also went dark on Twitter for the night. Multiple progressive sources indicated Stringer’s allies are waiting to see the evidence against him.
With Yang leading in the polls, the best hope his rivals have is a late push and what appears to be a large bloc of undecided voters. The introduction of ranked choice voting for the first time in the city’s history has also added a layer of unpredictability to the race. Hours before the allegations surfaced, Stringer attempted to spark his campaign with a nearly $1 million advertising blitz.
If Stringer does shed support, Dianne Morales, a nonprofit executive, would be a logical candidate to pick up some of his voters — though she is only polling in the single digits. Throughout the campaign, Morales and Stringer have courted the progressive vote. Several groups and officials, including Rivera, have ranked the pair on top in ranked choice endorsements.
Multiple recent polls showed Yang with a more than ten point lead over his nearest rivals, Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. The real question is likely not what this moment means for Stringer, but whether the fallout will matter enough to impact Yang.
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