Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Alphonso David is under fire from what the Huffington Post called "a staff revolt" during an all-staff meeting on Wednesday. One of the callers shared a copy of the recording with HuffPost. David was included in New York Attorney General Letitia James' report as someone who provided a confidential file to Cuomo's aides which they used to discredit accuser Lindsey Boylan.
As HuffPost reported:
The report states, for example, that David provided a confidential file to Cuomo’s top aides, which they used to discredit one of his accusers, Lindsey Boylan. The former Cuomo staffer has accused the governor of sexual harassment including an unsolicited kiss in his office and an invitation to play strip poker on a government airplane.
The report also states that David was involved in discussions about calling and secretly recording a conversation between a former Cuomo staffer and another Cuomo accuser named Kaitlin, who has not provided her last name. Kaitlin claims that in 2016, the governor grabbed her at a fundraiser and put her into a dance pose for photographers, and then two days later, had his staff reach out to her to offer her a job.
According to the report, David also initially declined to sign onto a letter aimed at discrediting Boylan and attacking her claims as political, but later told a Cuomo aide he would sign the letter “if we need him.” He also agreed to reach out to women who previously worked for Cuomo to try to get them to sign onto a statement saying positive things about the governor, per the report.
David was serving as president of HRC at the time of all these incidents.
David, who served as Cuomo's counsel from 2015-2019, has defended himself by saying he didn't know the documents would be leaked.
HuffPost's coverage also included questions that HRC staff members were able to anonymously ask, which involved multiple people asking David to resign. "Not a single person defended him," she noted.
David's answers to the questions provided further glimpse into how he defended himself:
“The first question is, what did Alphonso David personally know about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s harassment of multiple women?” began the moderator, reading from staff 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 employee asked: “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 said the report shows that he declined to sign that letter, and said he never agreed to sign any iteration of the letter.
“What I did agree to do was to talk about my personal experience at the governor’s office,” he said. “But I never agreed to sign a letter that would disparage any employee or any survivor of harassment.”
For the next hour, staffers pummeled David with questions about why he turned over Boylan’s confidential file to a Cuomo aide while serving as president of HRC (he said he was legally obligated), why he had that file at all since he didn’t work for Cuomo anymore (he said his file was a copy, not the official state document), whether he stands by his actions (he does), and how to protect HRC’s brand amid the scandal (he vowed to personally respond to all Cuomo-related questions).
Staff also pressed David on why he should keep his job.
“Will you be resigning?” asked a staffer.
“Alphonso, we will band together and take this to the board to request your resignation,” said another employee. “Are you willing to take down our org with you?”
“I appreciate that perspective,” David said. “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.”
David tweeted his call for Cuomo to resign on Tuesday.
After reading the AG’s devastating report that concluded Gov. Cuomo engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment, in violation of both federal and state law, he should resign.— Alphonso David (@AlphonsoDavid) August 3, 2021
"I read the report word for word, and it left me sickened to my stomach," he also said during the call. "There’s nowhere in the report where it says that I was aware of any of these allegations."
But, HRC staff were not satisfied with his answers from the call. One anonymous source told HuffPo that "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,” said this source, who requested anonymity in order to speak 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."
The HRC board, however, is standing by David. On Tuesday it was announced David's contrast was being extended for five years.
The fall-out is not merely from HRC employees, however. Dana Nessel, the Democratic attorney general of Michigan, who is openly a lesbian, tweeted on Thursday she will not be accepting donations from the organization until it has a new president.
David is not the only prominent figure, however. As Reagan covered, Roberta Kaplan, who is a co-founder of Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, is under scrutiny for her involvement as well.