In late April, just as Scott Stringer’s campaign for New York City mayor seemed to be gaining momentum, Jean Kim, a lobbyist, accused the city comptroller of sexual assault and harassment during his 2001 campaign for public advocate. Stringer has denied Kim’s allegations, claiming that they had a consensual relationship. “We had a friendship, with a little more,” he said in an interview. Nevertheless, Kim’s allegations shook up the mayoral race, and many of Stringer’s biggest backers have rescinded their endorsements. With the primary only weeks away, here’s what we know.
What Kim Has Alleged
On April 28, Kim held a press conference with her attorney Patricia Pastor, where she first laid out her claims against Stringer. Kim said that Stringer “inappropriately and relentlessly pursued a sexual relationship” with her.
“During this campaign, I traveled back and forth to campaign events with him. 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 said, as reported by WCBS-TV.
Kim provided more details to the New York Times in a piece published on May 9. She recalled that a week before the 2001 primary, she went to a bar with Stringer and others. When Kim and Stringer were the only two left, Kim said Stringer kissed her once, and then again with more force.
“The fact that I didn’t slap him away, I think he just took that as indication that it was okay,” Kim told the paper. She said that Stringer then “took his hand, and he put it down, like, the back of my pants.”
She also described Stringer making advances toward her during taxi cab rides, including him putting his hand on her knee.
Tony Caifano, Kim’s fiancé, said during a joint interview with Gothamist that Kim told him about the sexual assaults and harassment back in 2014. The couple had ended up at Stringer’s victory party and ran into the newly elected comptroller. Caifano reported that Kim started crying after the encounter and told him the story that evening.
“It was her story to tell, and I had to support her. We never spoke of it again,” Caifano told the outlet.
On May 4, Kim filed a formal complaint with Attorney General Letitia James’s office against Stringer. The office is reviewing the complaint.
Regarding the complaint, Pastor said in a statement, “Jean Kim, through her attorney, has filed this morning a formal complaint with the New York State Office of the Attorney General (OAG) alleging Sexual Abuse and Sexual Harassment by Scott Stringer while he was a New York State Assemblyman running for the office of Public Advocate.”
She added, “Jean will participate fully with the OAG in any investigation it conducts into this matter.”
Stringer has denied the accusations from the beginning, saying he had a consensual on-and-off relationship with Kim over the course of a few months, which ended before he met his wife. Kim denies this.
Stringer has also pushed back on Kim’s assertion that she worked on the 2001 campaign as an intern, calling her a “peer.” In a recent interview with WNYC, Stringer emphasized this point, telling Brian Lehrer, “Jean Kim was never an intern. She was a 30-year-old adult who was a campaign contributor.”
Stringer said he asked friends to volunteer and help him on his campaign, adding, “She did the volunteer work that hundreds of my personal friends did. That included giving out campaign literature, making phone calls, knocking on doors, trying to raise money to the campaign. Ms. Kim was a donor, not just in the 2001 race, but donated to me up until 2013.”
During that same interview, Stringer alluded to “inaccuracies” in Kim’s story that were reported by The Intercept, and noted that Kim reached out to him in 2013 about working on his comptroller campaign, and later ended up working for his opponent Eliot Spitzer.
In her initial statement, Kim said she left Community Free Democratic Club, the political club she and Stringer were both a part of, after the incidents. But the outlet found that Kim continued to pay dues to the club “at least through 2006” and a résumé from 2013 listed her club membership.
Kim said keeping ties to the group was important for her lobbying work. And as for sending the Stringer team her résumé, Kim told Gothamist it was more about giving the Stringer team “first right of refusal” rather than cause a stir when she accepted an offer from Spitzer’s campaign.
Effect on the Mayoral Race
The accusations quickly reverberated in the New York political scene, with several of Stringer’s opponents directly calling for him to drop out of the race, including the three leading female candidates: Kathryn Garcia, Dianne Morales, and Maya Wiley.
A number of prominent supporters of Stringer’s campaign pulled their endorsements, including Congressmen Jamaal Bowman and Adriano Espaillat, State Senators Alessandra Biaggi and Julia Salazar, and the Working Families Party.
Stringer has reiterated that he has no plans to drop out of the mayoral race or resign from his position as comptroller and that he intends to see his campaign through to the June 22 primary.