National nonprofit leaders catch heat over Cuomo scandal advice

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign at the at the Human Rights Campaign Greater New York Gala in 2020.
Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign at the at the Human Rights Campaign Greater New York Gala in 2020.
Kevin P. Coughlin / Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign.

National nonprofit leaders catch heat over Cuomo scandal advice

The governor's top aides reached out to them while trying to discredit a former staffer accusing Cuomo of sexual harassment.
August 6, 2021

The respective leaders of two national nonprofits are being criticized after New York Attorney General Letitia James released a report that found they advised Gov. Andrew Cuomo as he tried to discredit women accusing him of sexual harassment.

James’s investigation found that the governor sexually harassed multiple women, and outlined how his response to the allegations was informed and supported by a small group of advisers, including Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign and the governor’s former counsel, who provided Cuomo’s aides with an internal file on Lindsey Boylan, one of the women accusing Cuomo of misconduct, according to the report. That file was later leaked in an effort to discredit her credibility. The investigation also found that David declined to sign onto a letter drafted to question Boylan’s allegations, but helped find potential signatories for it. The report determined that the leaked file and drafted letter amounted to unlawful retaliation.

Though David publicly called on the governor to resign on Tuesday, many employees at the LGBTQ rights advocacy organization he leads have criticized his attempts to distance himself from Cuomo and are pushing for his resignation, according to the Huffington Post. David has denied knowing about the sexual harassment accusations until the report’s release. Despite the internal backlash, the boards of the Human Rights Campaign and Human Rights Campaign Foundation have stood by him, moving forward with pre-existing plans to extend his contract for another five years on Tuesday. 

Roberta Kaplan, an attorney and co-founder of Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which was created to advocate for sexual harassment victims, also was involved in the letter discrediting Boylan. Kaplan reviewed the letter, according to the report, and determined that it would be fine with some changes. Since the report’s release, she has said that her response to the request to review the email emphasized that people who bring forward sexual harassment accusations shouldn’t be shamed. She is now also calling for the governor’s resignation.

NYN Media reporter Kay Dervesh
Kay Dervishi
is a staff reporter at NYN Media.
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