Scott Stringer, a leading candidate for mayor of New York City, has been accused of sexual harassment by a former campaign worker for incidents that allegedly occurred two decades ago.
In a press conference in Lower Manhattan Wednesday morning, Jean Kim, who worked for Stringer’s campaign when he ran for the city’s public advocate position in 2001, accused the mayoral candidate of kissing her and groping her without her consent.
Stringer forcefully denied the allegations in a press conference of his own Wednesday afternoon.
“I want to make it clear that I unequivocally condemn sexual harassment of any kind. Sexual harassment is unacceptable. I believe women have the right, and should be encouraged, to come forward – and they must be heard,” he said. “But this isn’t me. I didn’t do this. I am going to fight for the truth – because these allegations are false. The behavior described is inaccurate and completely antithetical to the way I have conducted my entire life.”
Stringer described a “mutual” and “consensual” relationship with Kim when he was 41 and she was 30.
The accusations, leveled less than two months before the June 22 Democratic primary, could prove damaging to Stringer, who last month called for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to step down in light of multiple sexual harassment accusations from former female staffers and others.
Kim, now a political lobbyist, told reporters that she was first introduced to Stringer by former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman when he served in the State Assembly and ran in the Democratic primary for public advocate, a race he went on to lose.
She described Stringer, who is now the city’s comptroller, suddenly kissing her one day and touching her intimate body parts. She said Stringer attempted to buy her silence a few days later by offering to make her the first Asian district leader on the Upper West Side. Kim said the sexual advances continued throughout the campaign.
She said fear prevented her from disclosing the incidents in the past. “I was fearful of his vindictive nature and that he would retaliate against me and destroy my career in politics,” she said. Watching Stringer champion women’s rights on television recently, she added, prompted her to change her mind.
Three female politicians supporting Stringer’s mayoral campaign said on Wednesday they will hold Stringer accountable if the allegations are true.
“As survivors of childhood sexual assault, we believe survivors,” State Senators Julia Salaza and Alessandra Biaggi and Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou said in a joint statement. “Our commitment to a harassment free government, workplace, and society is steadfast, and our zero tolerance standard regarding sexual assault applies to abusers like Andrew Cuomo, if not more so, to our friends.”
Calling last month for Cuomo to resign, Stringer in a statement said the governor should do so “for the good of all New Yorkers.”
“And if he does not step down,” the statement continued, “the Legislature should swiftly begin impeachment proceedings to remove the Governor from office.”
On Wednesday, Stringer compared the allegations made against him with those made against Cuomo. “I do not believe this incident is in the same category,” he said.
Stringer’s wife, Elyse Buxbaum, an executive vice president at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, also spoke at the press conference: “My entire life I have never met a man more respectful of women and more committed to women’s rights … I chose Scott because I felt safe with him.”
Kathryn Garcia, former sanitation commissioner and one of the three leading female contenders in the June 22 primary, called on Stringer to drop out of the race. Another candidate, Dianne Morales, a former non-profit executive, said that while she stands with the accuser, she’s not focused on what Stringer should do going forward.
Stringer, the only leading Jewish candidate in New York’s mayoral race, has recently seen his campaign gain momentum, with endorsements of the Working Families Party and the United Federation of Teachers. Recent polls show him competing for second place with Eric Adams, Brooklyn’s borough president, and behind Andrew Yang, the frontrunner in the race.