It was the single most dramatic moment so far in this year’s Democratic mayoral primary. And one that has left many lingering questions.
On April 28, City Hall lobbyist Jean Kim and her lawyer Patricia Pastor held a brief press conference outside City Hall in which Kim alleged that City Comptroller and top tier mayoral candidate Scott Stringer had groped and forcibly kissed her without her consent and offered to trade political favors for sex 20 years earlier when she was working on another campaign of his.
The fallout was swift among Stringer’s younger progressive supporters
State Senator Jessica Ramos rescinded her endorsement within 24 hours. State Senators Alessandra Biaggi and Julia Salazar, Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, Congressman Jamaal Bowman and the New York Working Families Party exited the Stringer campaign en masse a couple of days later. So too the Sunrise Movement which issued this statement.
“After a deep inquiry into the details of this situation and hearing Kim’s brave testimony recounting her trauma, Sunrise NYC immediately rescinds our endorsement of Scott Stringer and calls for him to drop out of the race for Mayor of New York City.”
Stringer’s response to the charges — that he had done nothing wrong and in fact was involved in a consensual relationship with Kim in 2001 — further infuriated his now-former supporters.
Before Kim’s allegation, Stringer’s mayoral run as a progressive with unparalleled political and administrative experience was finally gaining momentum. In the previous week, he had won the endorsement of the Working Families Party and the United Federation of Teachers and polls had him rising to a close third behind Andrew Yang and Eric Adams. Now his campaign was suddenly a smoldering wreck.
Me Too scandals have followed a familiar path in recent years — one high-profile allegation leads to other victims coming forward with similar accounts of abusive behavior (Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for example, now faces 11 Me Too allegations). Corroboration also comes in the form of testimony of friends and associates the victim may have confided in. Once a pattern has been established, the perpetrator is driven from the powerful position they inhabit.
In Stringer’s case, there has been no contemporaneous corroboration of Kim’s allegation. In fact, The Intercept subsequently published reporting that documented that a number of Kim’s claims about the context and nature of her relationship to Stringer and the Upper West Side political club they both belonged to were false. This includes Kim’s claims about how and when she met Stringer, her involvement with Stringer’s political club which continued for more than a decade after the alleged incident and her applying for a position on Stringer’s 2013 campaign for Comptroller which she initially denied. In the same article, several mutual friends of Stringer and Kim from 20 years ago said they were widely believed to be in a relationship at the time and recalled Stringer and Kim holding hands and walking with their arms around each other on a number of occasions.
Subsequent reporting by The Intercept revealed that Patricia Pastor was not primarily a “sex crimes attorney” as she had claimed at the April 28 press conference. Instead, she had worked for the previous decade as general counsel with an anti-union construction company that had clashed with Stringer when he sided with unions in a labor dispute at the Hudson Yards mega-project.
None of these revelations prove Kim’s original allegation is false. On June 4, the New York Times reported that a second woman, Teresa Logan, was accusing Stringer of sexually harassing her. Logan, who is also represented by Pastor, worked in 1992 as a waitress at restaurant Stringer co-owned.
Stringer, meanwhile, continues to hover on the edge of the race. Polls show him with 10-15% of the first choice vote and running third or fourth place behind three more conservative opponents: Adams, Yang and former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia. Millennial leftists have moved on like Stringer never existed. However, the unions that backed him have remained in his corner.
“The basic work of why unions form is about workplace rules, and allegations are a major piece of workplace rules,” teachers union president Michael Mulgrew told the Times. “Their thing when they see something like this is, what’s the due process?”
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