The nation’s largest LGBTQ rights advocacy group is in turmoil, dealing with a employees revolt over their president’s connection to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s sexual harassment scandal.
In a tense all-staff assembly Wednesday, staff on the Human Rights Campaign laid into Alphonso David for nearly an hour and a half ― and requested him to resign a number of instances. An individual on the decision shared a recording with HuffPost.
David was a part of Cuomo’s tight internal circle, serving as his counsel from 2015 to 2019.
The New York legal professional basic’s workplace on Tuesday launched a bombshell report detailing its investigation into allegations in opposition to the Democratic governor, and David seems to have performed a big function in Cuomo’s efforts to discredit his accusers. The report — which is predicated on conversations with 179 individuals and greater than 74,000 items of proof, together with emails, texts, images and audio information — concluded that Cuomo sexually harassed a number of girls and violated federal and state legal guidelines.
David publicly referred to as for Cuomo’s resignation in a tweet on Tuesday night time. And in the course of the convention name on Wednesday, David advised employees that he hadn’t identified in regards to the sexual harassment allegations in opposition to Cuomo till the report got here out.
“I read the report word for word, and it left me sickened to my stomach,” David mentioned. “There’s nowhere in the report where it says that I was aware of any of these allegations.”
But HRC staff spent a lot of the name berating David over the report’s findings that tie him to Cuomo’s makes an attempt to smear his accusers and publicly redeem himself.
“You are creating a toxic environment where partners can’t trust us,” charged one staffer. “When are you resigning?”
The report states, for instance, that David offered a confidential file to Cuomo’s prime aides, which they used to discredit considered one of his accusers, Lindsey Boylan. The former Cuomo staffer has accused the governor of sexual harassment together with an unsolicited kiss in his workplace and an invite to play strip poker on a authorities airplane.
The report additionally states that David was concerned in discussions about calling and secretly recording a dialog between a former Cuomo staffer and one other Cuomo accuser named Kaitlin, who has not offered her final title. Kaitlin claims that in 2016, the governor grabbed her at a fundraiser and put her right into a dance pose for photographers, after which two days later, had his employees reach out to her to supply her a job.
According to the report, David additionally initially declined to signal onto a letter aimed toward discrediting Boylan and attacking her claims as political, however later advised a Cuomo aide he would signal the letter “if we need him.” He additionally agreed to reach out to girls who beforehand labored for Cuomo to attempt to get them to signal onto an announcement saying optimistic issues in regards to the governor, per the report.
David was serving as president of HRC on the time of all these incidents.
Staffers on the decision got the choice to submit questions anonymously, which allowed individuals to be blunt. Not a single individual defended him.
“The first question is, what did Alphonso David personally know about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s harassment of multiple women?” started the moderator, studying from employees submissions. “Was Alphonso David complicit in any way in a cover-up of Gov. Cuomo’s sexual harassment of women?”
“I knew nothing. Nothing,” David replied. “No one ever disclosed allegations of harassment with me, either during or after I worked in state service. Also, I never saw anything.”
Another worker requested: “Do you plan to issue a public apology for agreeing to sign a draft [letter] disparaging an accuser while serving as president of HRC, per the AG’s report?”
David mentioned the report exhibits that he declined to signal that letter, and mentioned he by no means agreed to signal any iteration of the letter.
“What I did agree to do was to talk about my personal experience at the governor’s office,” he mentioned. “But I never agreed to sign a letter that would disparage any employee or any survivor of harassment.”
For the following hour, staffers pummeled David with questions on why he turned over Boylan’s confidential file to a Cuomo aide whereas serving as president of HRC (he mentioned he was legally obligated), why he had that file in any respect since he didn’t work for Cuomo anymore (he mentioned his file was a duplicate, not the official state doc), whether or not he stands by his actions (he does), and tips on how to shield HRC’s model amid the scandal (he vowed to personally reply to all Cuomo-related questions).
Staff additionally pressed David on why he ought to preserve his job.
“Will you be resigning?” requested a staffer.
“Alphonso, we will band together and take this to the board to request your resignation,” mentioned one other worker. “Are you willing to take down our org with you?”
“I appreciate that perspective,” David mentioned. “But I hope you can take a closer look at the report, because to suggest otherwise would mean I knew what the report said I didn’t know. I didn’t know any of this. So you’re basically asking me to resign for conduct I didn’t know about.”
But the resignation questions simply stored coming.
“Is the best way to protect HRC’s brand for Alphonso to step down?” requested one other staffer.
“Actually, I think one of the important lessons here is to highlight how harassment and discriminatory behavior hides in the darkness,” David mentioned. “And how my experience can actually be used to effect change.”
An HRC spokesperson didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark in regards to the anger on show within the assembly or about staffers calling for David’s resignation.
Alphonso was an amazing lawyer in the present day, ducking questions and reframing solutions. Most individuals don’t assume he answered questions straight. … One individual identified that there was no apology for your complete 90 minutes from him.
a participant in HRC’s convention name
HRC staffers could also be upset with David and his ties to Cuomo, however the board is standing by him. It prolonged his contract for 5 extra years on Tuesday, a choice that was already within the works however coincidentally landed on the identical day the New York legal professional basic’s report dropped. David is the primary individual of shade to function HRC’s president in its 40-year historical past.
“The Human Rights Campaign and Human Rights Campaign Foundation Boards have full confidence in Alphonso David as president of the organization,” HRC Foundation Board chair Jodie Patterson and HRC Board of Directors chair Morgan Cox mentioned in a joint assertion.
“In recognition of his extraordinary leadership during extremely challenging times, we were proud to extend his contract to stay on in his role for five more years,” they mentioned. “For the last two years he has been boldly leading the organization as it works to achieve its mission: full equality for all LGBTQ people, in the midst of a global pandemic, a nationwide reckoning on racial justice, and the most important presidential election of our lifetimes.”
But the group is already incurring harm from its determination. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who’s brazenly homosexual, tweeted Thursday that she gained’t settle for any marketing campaign donations or assist from HRC till David is out.
After the assembly ended, one one who was on the decision advised HuffPost that staffers got here away feeling dissatisfied with David’s responses.
“Alphonso was a great lawyer today, ducking questions and reframing answers. Most people don’t think he answered questions directly. It’s how most people view him,” mentioned this supply, who requested anonymity to be able to converse freely. “One person pointed out that there was no apology for the entire 90 minutes from him. Not an apology that HRC and its staff is caught up in something because of him and that he was sorry for that.”
“He is sometimes called Cuomo Jr.”
Calling all HuffPost superfans!
Sign up for membership to turn out to be a founding member and assist form HuffPost’s subsequent chapter