Stringer Accused of Sexual Assault

Former campaign worker says mayoral candidate made advances without her consent 20 years ago

| 28 Apr 2021 | 06:05

A woman who worked on Scott Stringer’s 2001 campaign for public advocate made accusations Wednesday that the now-mayoral candidate sexually assaulted and harassed her 20 years ago – allegations that will undoubtedly impact the fast-approaching Democratic primary.

Jean Kim, who works as a lobbyist, held a press conference with her lawyer Wednesday morning in downtown Manhattan, during which she claimed that while working as an unpaid intern on Stringer’s campaign, he kissed and groped her without consent.

“[Stringer] repeatedly groped me, put his hands on my thighs and between my legs and demanded to know why I would not have sex with him,” Kim said.

She also alleged that Stringer, who has served as the city’s comptroller for seven years, told her not to tell anyone about these incidents and that in return he would help to elect her as the first Asian Democratic district leader on the Upper West Side, where she and Stringer were both members of the Community Free Democrats. Her discomfort with the alleged advances grew to the point where she felt she needed to move across town to the East Side and leave the Democratic club, she said.

“I have tried my best to put this chapter of my life behind me, forget about it all and move forward with my life,” Kim said. “But I’m coming forward now because being forced to see him in my living room on TV every day, pretending to be a champion for women’s rights, just sickens me when I know the truth.”

Stringer Press Conference

Meanwhile, Stringer’s denial of the alleged abuse was unequivocal.

At his own press conference Wednesday afternoon, Stringer said rather that Kim was a volunteer on his campaign, not an intern. He said that he and Kim met in the late 1990s and that she was an early supporter of his campaign for public advocate. The two, he said, had been involved in an on-and-off consensual relationship for several months during that time period.

“The allegations against me are utterly and categorically false,” said Stringer, who was accompanied by his wife, Elyse Buxbaum. “I never used any force, made any threat, or do any of the things that are alleged.”

Stringer said he and Kim “maintained an amicable relationship for many years afterwards, until 2013, when we could not find her a role on my campaign for comptroller.”

Buxbaum spoke in support of her husband, with whom she has two children, disclosing that she herself is a survivor of sexual assault.

“Even if a fraction of what Scott is accused of is true, I would not stand by him,” Buxbaum said. “My entire life, I have never met a man more respectful of women or respectful of women’s rights.”

Statements from Opposing Candidates

Kim’s lawyer, Patricia Pastor, denied that Kim and Stringer were ever involved in a consensual relationship. She also called for Stringer to resign from his office and for the state attorney general and the city to investigate Kim’s claims.

The political fallout for Stringer, who has been a frontrunner in the mayoral election, was immediate. Opposing candidates quickly issued statements following Kim’s press conference.

Kathryn Garcia and Shaun Donovan both demanded Stringer’s withdrawal.

“Scott Stringer should stand by his own policy of zero tolerance for sexual harassment and drop out of the mayoral race,” Garcia said in a statement. “New Yorkers need and deserve a mayor they can trust, who demonstrates steady, competent, and capable leadership. It is clear that Scott Stringer is not that person and that we need more women in leadership and elected office.”

Both Maya Wiley and Dianne Morales said they believed and stood with Kim.

“Right now, I’m not focused on Scott Stringer. I’m focused on the woman of color who has to endure public scrutiny as she speaks her truth about the harm she’s experienced,” Morales said in a statement. “I have been consistent that we need to believe survivors, and that doesn’t change today.”

Wiley said Stringer needs to “immediately account for this abuse.”

“The behavior, as Kim describes it, is a sexual assault, as well as sexual harassment. Furthermore, she says that she was driven to silence from telling her story,” Wiley said. “This an act we’ve seen far too often: men who use positions of power over women to intimidate them.”

At an event at New York Law School Wednesday, Andrew Yang acknowledged the allegations, saying Kim “took a very brave step” in coming forward.

Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou and state Sens. Alessandra Biaggi and Julia Salazar, who all endorsed Stringer very early on in the mayoral race, addressed the allegations in a joint statement.

“As survivors of childhood sexual assault, we believe survivors,” the statement read. “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. This standard also applies to everyone who participates in the normalization or erasure of abuse. We always hold space for anyone to safely come forward to share their experiences, and will demand accountability accordingly.”

In the wake of the multiple sexual harassment claims against Cuomo in the last several months, Stringer had called on for the governor to resign. At Wednesday’s press conference, reporters asked Stringer if his zero tolerance policy that prompted him to call for Cuomo’s resignation, should apply to himself as well.

Stringer said he would not resign and that he would continue his campaign for mayor.

“[Cuomo’s] been accused of multiple incidents of abusing his office,” said Stringer. “I do not believe that this incident is in the same category.”