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Human Rights Campaign Fires President Alphonso David Over Report That He Helped Cuomo

7September 2021

Human Rights Campaign has ousted Alphonso David as its president, citing his efforts to help former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s staff respond to sexual harassment claims against Cuomo. David is seen here in May.

John Amis/AP

John Amis/AP

The Human Rights Campaign has ousted Alphonso David as its president, saying it fired him for cause in the wake of a report that found he helped former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo respond to sexual misconduct allegations.

David’s exit is contentious, with both sides accusing the other of spreading falsehoods.

“Expect a legal challenge,” David said in a tweet sent late Monday night. He accused the LGBTQ+ civil rights organization of “bullying and a cloak and dagger process” and said he was never shown a copy of an independent probe into his actions regarding Cuomo.

The HRC hired David as its president two years ago, citing his work for marriage equality and his fight to end discrimination based on gender and other issues, as well as his trailblazer status as an openly gay Black man who had just spent several years as Cuomo’s chief counsel.

But the HRC now says David violated its conflict of interest policies as well as its mission by helping Cuomo’s team respond to sexual harassment allegations late last year.

David’s name appears roughly three dozen times in the investigative report from New York Attorney General Letitia James, which concluded that Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 women and prompted the governor’s resignation. While some of the references date to David’s work for the state, others refer to communications he had with the governor’s staff after he became HRC’s president. When David left his state government post, according to the Aug. 3 report, he took files with him that were related to one of Cuomo’s accusers, Lindsey Boylan.

David sent the files to a top Cuomo adviser last December, two days after Boylan said in a tweet that Cuomo was “one of the biggest abusers of all time,” the report states. When Boylan accused Cuomo of sexual harassment days later, the files were leaked to multiple media outlets, in an attempt to undercut Boylan’s credibility. The files David had shared were labeled as being privileged and confidential, the report states.

The HRC says David’s conduct has jeopardized the group’s reputation and financial prospects, and that the damage to his reputation has undermined his ability to lead the organization.

David has insisted he did nothing wrong, adding that he had supported an HRC move to hire the Sidley Austin law firm to conduct an independent inquiry into his involvement with Cuomo’s office. David also noted that his lawyers had not been in the process of negotiating his exit — something he says the HRC has falsely suggested.

The HRC says his termination is effective immediately and that the group will be led by Chief Operating Officer Joni Madison as it looks for a new permanent leader.

David’s exit isn’t the only fallout from the attorney general’s report. Last month, Roberta Kaplan and Tina Tchen, two co-founders of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, resigned from the anti-harassment group after the report detailed their ties to Cuomo’s administration and their attempts to aid the governor’s response to the allegations.

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