Stringer’s sex scandal prompts mixed reaction from mayoral rivals

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Scott Stringer holds hands with his wife, Elyse Buxbaum, before he addressed the sexual assault allegations made against him Wednesday.
Photo by Dean Moses

Some demanded that he get out of the race immediately. Others sidestepped the fate of the accused in lieu of offering support for the accuser.

The sexual assault allegations made against city Comptroller and mayoral candidate Scott Stringer Wednesday shook up the race nearly eight weeks from the June 22 Democratic primary. Stringer vehemently denied the claims of a former intern, Jean Kim, who accused Stringer of attacking her while she worked for him back in 2001.

The most recent polls have Stringer among the top three candidates in the Democratic primary field, behind entrepreneur Andrew Yang and running neck-and-neck for second place with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

In statements released on Wednesday, both Yang and Adams offered support for Kim, as well as victims of sexual assault. But their statements did not directly address what, if anything, Stringer should do in response to the accusations.

“Jean Kim took an incredibly brave step forward this morning in telling her story of coercion and assault,” Yang said in a joint statement with his wife, Evelyn. “We hope New Yorkers will listen, uplift Jean’s story, and remember that her experience is unfortunately far from unique. Thank you, Jean, for speaking your truth today. We heard you, and we believe you.”

“Women must be heard. These are deeply troubling allegations of assault and I take them seriously. I want to recognize Jean Kim for her courage and bravery today,” Adams said on Wednesday. “We must ensure that anyone who believes they were harassed, assaulted or treated in an unacceptable manner can come forward safely and be heard.”

Former Citicorp executive Ray McGuire also took the approach of supporting the accuser, but declining to address Stringer’s fate head on.

“My thoughts are first and foremost with the woman who has come forward. She has demonstrated incredible bravery in standing before the world and speaking her truth. Her accounts of sexual assault and harassment are troubling and must be taken seriously,” McGuire said. “As a city, we must give this survivor the respect of sharing without judgment, ridicule or fear of retaliation – and then the resources to seek accountability if they so choose.”

Civic leader Dianne Morales chose, in her statement, not to focus on Stringer. Instead, she thanked Kim for coming forward and offered moral support for her. 

“I’m focused on the woman of color who has to endure public scrutiny as she speaks her truth about the harm she experienced,” Morales said. “I thank Jean for her bravery in speaking out and coming forward. And I offer compassion to her for what she has endured, and what is yet to come. I stand with her, and her demands for justice.”

Other rivals in the mayor’s race running behind Stringer, however, were quick to express their outrage over the charge — and demanded that Stringer get out of both the race, and the office he currently holds. They included former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.

“The allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct brought against Comptroller Stringer are credible, profoundly disturbing, and deeply disappointing,” Donovan said in a statement demanding that Stringer quit the race and depart from office. “With public service comes public trust, and in light of these accusations, it is clear that Mr. Stringer has broken that trust both as a fellow public servant and a prospective candidate to lead our city.” 

Former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia also said it was time for Stringer to drop out of the contest, while also offering support to Kim for stepping forward.

“Scott Stringer should stand by his own policy of zero tolerance for sexual harassment and drop out of the mayoral race,” Garcia wrote.

Civil rights attorney Maya Wiley said in a statement posted to her Twitter account that Stringer should “immediately account for this abuse of a campaign intern,” though she didn’t specify how he should do so.

“The behavior, as Kim describes it, is a sexual assault, as well as sexual harassment,” Wiley wrote. “Furthermore, she says that she was driven to silence from telling her story. That is an act we’ve seen far too often: men who use positions of power over women to intimidate them. … The people of New York just deserve better than this.”

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