Human Rights Campaign president fired for assisting Andrew Cuomo with sexual harassment allegations
Human Rights Campaign fired its president Alphonso David on Monday following an investigation into his involvement in handling sexual harassment claims made against former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The LGBTQ advocacy group said that David, while president, assisted Cuomo’s team in responding to allegations, which is in violation of the organization’s policy and mission.
“At HRC, we are fighting to bring full equality and liberation to LGBTQ+ People everywhere. That includes fighting on behalf of all victims of sexual harassment and assault,” HRC board members Morgan Cox and Jodie Patterson said in a statement Monday.
According to the state attorney general’s report, David met with Lindsey Boylan, who has accused Cuomo of sexual harassment, in 2018. David, according to his LinkedIn profile, was serving as the chief counsel to the governor during the time.
Boylan, who at one time worked for the governor, has said that, over the course of several years, Cuomo would comment on her appearance and attractiveness, treated her in a way that others would say he had a visible “crush” on her, made inappropriate comments, such as “let’s play strip poker,” and touched her inappropriately.
When Boylan spoke with David in January 2018, the attorney general’s report said, David told her that she “had not been subject to sex discrimination, harassment or retaliation.”
David left his job with the governor in July 2019 to become the president of the Human Rights Campaign, but the attorney general’s investigation found that he continued to be involved in the case.
In December 2020, after Boylan tweeted that Cuomo was “one of the biggest abusers of all time,” David sent confidential files to the senior deputy communications director at the time. The files, according to the report, were related “to his investigation into and counseling of Ms. Boylan shortly before her departure from the Executive Chamber…that he had retained and taken with him when he left the Executive Chamber.”
David, among others, was “actively consulted” about the sexual harassment allegations, the report concluded.
“We also find it revealing and consistent with the Executive Chamber’s overall approach that, when faced with allegations of sexual harassment brought against the Governor, the inner circle of confidantes brought in to control and direct the response included a number of individuals with no official role in the Executive Chamber,” the report said.
On August 9, HRC announced it was conducting an internal investigation using third-party law firm Sidley Austin LLP. The investigation, the organization said, would take no longer than 30 days and was conducted to find if David’s actions “aligned with HRC’s mission and values, as well as with professional and ethics standards.”
David said Sunday that he was “shocked and sick to my stomach” when the report came out, and he had “immediately called” on Cuomo to resign. He said he also called for Human Rights Campaign to conduct an independent review, and that he had “participated in it fully.” The HRC asked him to resign, he said, and he had refused.
But the Human Rights Campaign says that David’s statement contains “significant untruths” about the investigations.
The organization, which regularly advocates for victims of sexual harassment and assault, said it has received “hundreds” of communications about David’s involvement with Cuomo’s case, creating “material damage” to the organization’s interests and reputation.
“This is a painful moment in our movement,” the organization said in its statement. “While the Board’s decision is not the outcome we had ever envisioned or hoped for in terms of Mr. David’s tenure with HRC, his actions have put us in an untenable position by violating HRC’s core values, policies and mission.”
Following his ouster, David tweeted that HRC has not offered a “shred of evidence of any wrongdoing” on his part, and says the organization told him that the investigation into his dealings with Cuomo is not complete, despite what they have stated publicly.
David said that the organization should “expect a legal challenge.”
“After I demanded truth and transparency, the HRC board co-chairs who should stand for human rights elected to hide in darkness. They unjustly provided notice of termination to me,” David tweeted. “…They lied about producing the report. Now that they are being called to task, they tried to shut me up. As a Black, gay man who has spent his whole life fighting for civil and human rights, they cannot shut me up.”