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HRC launches investigation into Alphonso David’s role in Cuomo scandal

Despite at first having “full confidence” in David, the Human Rights Campaign has changed course.

Human Rights Campaign president Alfonso David // Time

Due to pushback both externally and from employees, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT lobbying group, has hired a law firm to reinvestigate the involvement of the organization’s president Alphonso David in the New York governor Andrew Cuomo sexual harassment scandal.

Last week, the bombshell report from New York Attorney General Letitia James’s office detailed an investigation into the allegations against Cuomo. The report implicated David in trying to smear and discredit one of Cuomo’s victims.

Following the damning report, the HRC board of directors announced it would renew David’s contract for another five years. The Advocate falsely reported the “announcement of the renewal fell coincidentally on the same day the James report came out.”

In fact the news came a day after the allegations of David’s wrongdoing surfaced. Time magazine reports, “On Wednesday, HRC exclusively announced to TIME that David, the first person of color to serve as president in HRC’s 40 year history, has signed a contract—one of the longest offered by HRC and the HRC Foundation Joint Board of Directors to a president—to stay on in his role for five more years.”

On Tuesday, Cuomo announced in a press conference he would be stepping down as governor, citing the sexual misconduct allegations. Despite at first having “full confidence” in David’s role as president of the organization, HRC has changed course deciding David’s alleged involvement in the scandal is “very concerning.”

“Human Rights Campaign and Human Rights Campaign Foundation President Alphonso David’s inclusion in the New York State Attorney General’s report on the investigation of Governor Andrew Cuomo is very concerning. Over the past several days, HRC’s employees, supporters, board members and partners have raised questions about the appropriateness of Alphonso David’s actions and whether they align with HRC’s decades’ long mission of fighting for equality and justice for all,” the organization said in a statement released Monday, a day before Cuomo’s resignation.

HRC has hired law firm Sidley Austin LLP to conduct the probe that will reportedly last no longer than 30 days. “Sidley Austin will report only to and work at the direction of the Boards of Directors in conducting a thorough investigation. The investigation will include consideration of whether Alphonso David’s actions aligned with HRC’s mission and values, as well as with professional and ethics standards,” the organization said.

Sidley Austin has thrown its weight and financial support behind many Democrat politicians recently. According to Open Secrets, through individual donations from the law firm, Sidley Austin donated over $547,000 to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign along with over $295,000 to the Democratic National Convention.

In his own statement, David announced his support of the investigation. “I fully endorse the decision of the boards of the Human Rights Campaign to conduct an independent review of the New York State Attorney General’s report,” he said. “It is an important effort to ensure the transparency that I have supported and engaged in with the board and staff since I joined this organization. I appreciate the open dialogue we are having and the support of so many across our organization.”

He further reiterated his innocence in any wrongdoing and propagated narratives that run contrary to the New York Attorney General’s report, which have been previously reported by Outspoken.

Two other central figures in this scandal have recently resigned. Melissa DeRosa, aide to Gov. Cuomo, was implicated in the Attorney General’s report as having worked with David to obtain confidential information on one of the governor’s accusers. This weekend, DeRosa resigned from her position with a statement that “didn’t mention the scandal or offer an apology,” according to the New York Post.

According to Fox News, Roberta Kaplan, cofounder and chairwoman of Time’s Up, a group that supports victims of sexual harassment and was founded at the height of the #MeToo movement, has also resigned. Kaplan was implicated in drafting a letter that sought to smear the reputation of one of Cuomo’s accusers. Kaplan and Time’s Up were criticized by victims of sexual assault who declared that the organization had “prioritized its proximity to power over mission” and “abandoned the very people it was supposed to champion.”

Kaplan referenced the Cuomo scandal in her resignation saying, “Unfortunately, recent events have made it clear that even our apparent allies in the fight to advance women can turn out to be abusers.” She continued, “I therefore have reluctantly come to the conclusion that an active law practice is no longer compatible with serving on the Board at Time’s Up at this time and I hereby resign.”

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