NYC’s Stringer Faces Groping Claim, Calls to Quit Mayor’s Race
(Bloomberg) -- A woman accused New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer of groping her without consent during his 2001 campaign for city public advocate, spurring the withdrawal of a political endorsement and calls for Stringer to quit the mayoral race.
Jean Kim, who described herself as an unpaid intern, said Wednesday that Stringer kissed and groped her in a taxicab and put his hands down her pants. She said Stringer, then a state assemblyman, warned Kim not to tell anyone about the incident and promised to make her “the first Asian district leader on the Upper West Side,” according to a copy of prepared remarks for a press conference near Stringer’s Lower Manhattan office. “When I asked what steps I would need to take, he responded, ‘you would have to prove yourself to me.’”
Stringer, 60, said he supports the right of all survivors of harassment to come forward with accusations, but the allegations against him are “false and inaccurate.”
He said he met Kim in the late 1990s and that she had supported and donated to his campaigns as early as 1999. He said she was not an intern, but a campaign volunteer and that she “has never worked for me in any capacity.”
The comptroller said that when he was 41 years old, and Kim was 30, the two had a consensual “on and off relationship” over several months. He described it as a “mutual, consensual relationship.”
“I respect her, I really do, but I also have my own truth and I’m getting that out as well,” Stringer said Wednesday at a press conference with his wife, Elyse Buxbaum, who he married in 2010. “I have comported myself with integrity and honor.”
Buxbaum also spoke, calling her husband “the most respectful man I’ve ever known.”
Calls to Quit
New York state Senator Jessica Ramos, who represents parts of Queens, said after hearing Kim’s account on Wednesday she was “officially rescinding my endorsement of Scott Stringer for Mayor of New York City.”
Ramos said the city needs “a leader who can rise to meet the moment and will not be distracted by scandals as our city continues to make its way towards recovery.”
Stringer’s accuser said she hadn’t previously publicly disclosed the incident because she was “fearful of his vindictive nature and that he would retaliate against me and destroy my career in politics,” according to her prepared remarks shared by her lawyer.
“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,” she said.
Stringer is one of several Democrats vying for their party’s mayoral nomination in a June 22 primary election. A number of polls have reported him running third in the race, behind former presidential candidate Andrew Yang and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
Rival mayoral candidate Kathryn Garcia on Wednesday called for Stringer to drop out of the mayor’s race and to “stand by his own policy of zero tolerance for sexual harassment,” she said in a statement. Shaun Donovan, who also is running for mayor, said in a statement that Stringer should resign from office and rescind his candidacy.
Later on Wednesday, Stringer became a subject of discussion among four candidates at the city’s first public, in-person mayoral debate.
”We must call out anyone to whom we have lent the power of the people and say if you can’t protect and serve the people who work for you, how are you protecting and serving the people?” Maya Wiley said during the debate, which Stringer previously declined to attend. “And guess what? Women count.”
Mayoral candidate and former Citigroup banker Ray Mcguire stopped short of calling for Stringer’s dismissal at the debate but said the allegations should be taken seriously. Yang and Adams, who didn’t participate in the debate, have expressed their support of Kim to share her experience but have not called for Stringer to pull out of the race.
After decades in New York politics, Stringer had received the mayoral endorsements of powerful unions and political groups like the city’s largest teacher’s union and the Working Families Party.
He also got the backing of progressive state lawmakers like Senator Alessandra Biaggi and Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou, who have been vocal opponents of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision to stay in office despite multiple accusations of sexual harassment. Cuomo has denied all claims.
In response to the Stringer accusations on Wednesday, Biaggi, Niou and Senator Julia Salazar said that they “hold space for anyone to safely come forward to share their experiences, and will demand accountability accordingly,” according to a statement posted on Twitter. “Our zero tolerance standard regarding sexual assault applies to abusers like Andrew Cuomo, if not more so, to our friends.”
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.