Human Rights Campaign president fired over Andrew Cuomo ‘cover-up’

Alphonso David against a rainbow stripe background

Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David has been fired over his ties to disgraced former New York governor Andrew Cuomo.

David, the LGBT+ advocacy group’s first Black president, was fired by the board Monday night (6 September) for “violations of his contract with the Human Rights Campaign”.

It came after an investigation into his links to Andrew Cuomo, after a report claimed he was party to an alleged cover-up of sexual misconduct allegations against the ex-governor. Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing.

David’s dismissal was announced by HRC board co-chairs Morgan Cox and Jodie Patterson, who said: “As outlined in the New York Attorney General report, Mr David engaged in a number of activities in December 2020, while HRC President, to assist Governor Cuomo’s team in responding to allegations by Ms Boylan of sexual harassment.

“This conduct in assisting governor Cuomo’s team, while president of HRC, was in violation of HRC’s conflict of interest policy and the mission of HRC.”

The statement also accused David of peddling “significant untruths” about the internal investigation HRC conducted into his conduct. David had said on Monday that the investigation found no wrongdoing on his part.

“At HRC, we are fighting to bring full equality and liberation to LGBT+ people everywhere,” the statement from Cox and Patterson continued. “That includes fighting on behalf of all victims of sexual harassment and assault.”

“This is a painful moment in our movement,” they wrote of the decision, which followed a review overseen by members of the HRC executive committee.

“While the board’s decision is not the outcome we had ever envisioned or hoped for in terms of Mr David’s tenure with HRC, his actions have put us in an untenable position by violating HRC’s core values, policies and mission.”

Joni Madison, HRC’s chief operating officer, will become interim president moving forward.

Alphonso David: ‘As a Black gay man, they cannot shut me up’

Aphonso David’s was appointed in 2015 as Cuomo’s chief legal counsel and secretary on civil rights, a top post that earned him plaudits among state officials and activists. In his role, he worked with Cuomo to roll out marriage equality and ban conversion therapy in the state.

He was hired two years ago as HRC president. But his reputation was muddied after Letitia James, the New York State attorney general, issued a damning report into sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo in August.

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo Holds Daily News Conference Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Andrew Cuomo. (Bennett Raglin/Getty Images)

Cuomo’s aides, the report claimed, sought to undermine efforts by his first accuser, Lindsey Boylan. Among them was David, who is directly named three dozen times in the report that concludes that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women.

While the report names David’s work for the state, it also brings up communications he had with the governor’s staff after he became HRC president. When he departed Cuomo’s office for the HRC, he allegedly took files related to Boyland, the report states.

He later sent the files to a top Cuomo adviser in December 2020 before they were leaked to the media in what the report suggests was an attempt to misrepresent Boylan. It was revealed that he assisted in the drafting of a distorting op-ed against her that was ultimately not published.

Cuomo, who subsequently resigned, has vehemently denied any wrongdoing. “I take full responsibility for my actions,” he said during his resignation speech last month, characterising his behaviour as misguided attempts at humour and affection.

After his expulsion was announced, David vowed to take legal action against the HRC. The group, he said, will not silence him.

“After I demanded the truth and transparency, the HRC board co-chairs, who should stand for human rights, elected to hide in darkness,” David said in a statement sent over text and later shared on his official Twitter account.

David alleged that HRC officials ousted him to “end my fight for the integrity of the review process”.

“I asked for the report,” he added, “they refused. They lied about producing the report.

“Now that they are being called to task, they tried to shut me up.

“As a Black, gay man who has spent his whole life fighting for civil and human rights, they cannot shut me up. Expect a legal challenge.”