Seeing his campaign for mayor put in jeopardy, City Comptroller Scott Stringer on Wednesday was trying to fight off charges of sexual harassment and assault from a woman who was involved in his unsuccessful campaign for Public Advocate in 2001.
At a press conference outside the David Dinkins Municipal Building in Manhattan, Jean Kim, a lobbyist detailed her allegations against Stringer.
"He inappropriately and relentlessly pursued a sexual relationship with me," Kim said. "During his campaign events I traveled back and forth to campaign events with him and Scott Stringer repeatedly groped me, put his hands on my thighs and between my legs and demanded to know why I wouldn't have sex with him."
Kim appeared beside her attorney Patricia Pastor, who said they are calling on the state attorney general and the city to investigate. Kim also called on Stringer to withdraw from the mayoral race and resign from his post as city comptroller.
"I am coming forward now because being forced to see him on my TV every day pretending to be a champion for women's rights just sickens me when I know the truth," Kim said.
Kim said she first met Stringer when she was introduced to him by former state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. At the time, Kim said she joined a political club in Manhattan where she became involved in local politics. She also claimed to be an unpaid intern for the campaign.
Shortly after Kim’s press conference, Stringer responded, speaking to reporters outside his home in Lower Manhattan. He denied accusations of sexual harassment, saying Kim was never an intern on any of his campaigns, that she had supported and donated to his campaigns and that the two had a brief consensual relationship.
“The behavior described is inaccurate and completely antithetical to the way I have conducted my entire life,” Stringer said. "I met Jean in the late 1990s. She was a peer. Around the time of my campaign, we had an on and off relationship over several months. She was 30, and I was 41. I believe it was a mutual, consensual relationship."
Campaign records show Kim made several campaign donations to different Stringer campaigns starting in 1999. Campaign Finance Board data show Kim listed her occupation at the time as a "PR Representative."
According to Kim, she feared making accusations against Stringer at the time of the alleged incidents because of potential retaliation from him given his status in the city's political world.
During the press conference, Kim, who has worked as a lobbyist in recent years, declined to answer questions about how old she was at the time of the incident. She would only say she is currently in her 40s and declined to provide details about records showing she made campaign contributions to Stringer around the same time and in subsequent years. Kim denied she had ever had a consensual relationship with Stringer.
The accusation comes at a pivotal time in the race. Less than two months away from primary day, Stringer has sought to re-energize his campaign with a series of high-profile endorsements and the campaign's first TV ad buy this week. Shortly after the press conference, reaction began coming in from some of his Democratic rivals. Kathryn Garcia and Shaun Donovan both called on him to drop out of the race.
Reaction from Stringer's supporters and his Democratic rivals was swift. State Senator Jessica Ramos, one of the first lawmakers to endorse his campaign rescinded her endorsement, saying the accusations were a distraction at time when the city needs a leader to focus on recovery.
Senators Alessandra Biaggi, Julia Salazar and Assemblywoman Yuh-Lin Niou who all have spoken against sexual harassment, most recently calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign after he was accused of harassing multiple staffers in his office.
"As survivors of childhood sexual assault, we believe survivors. 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," Biaggi, Salazar and Niou said in a statement issued Wednesday. "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."