Cuomo Aides Recruited Pro-LGBT Activist To Help Discredit Governor's Accuser

Human Rights Campaign president leaked personnel file, drafted op-ed smearing Cuomo victim

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D., N.Y.) / Getty Images
August 3, 2021

Two of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D., N.Y.) top lieutenants recruited the president of the Human Rights Campaign to obtain a confidential personnel file of one of the governor’s accusers, which they leaked to multiple media outlets.

According to a bombshell report released by New York attorney general Letitia James on Tuesday, Richard Azzopardi and Melissa DeRosa directed the release of information about Cuomo accuser Lindsey Boylan, after she publicly accused the governor of sexual harassment in December 2020.

Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 female state employees and members of the public, including a state trooper, according to the attorney general’s report. It said that Cuomo engaged in non-consensual touching and made inappropriate sexual remarks to employees. The report also accuses Cuomo’s advisers of overseeing a "culture of fear and intimidation."

The report is likely to lead to calls for Cuomo to resign from office, or to face impeachment. President Joe Biden said in March that Cuomo should resign if the sexual harassment allegations were substantiated.

According to the attorney general’s report, DeRosa requested Boylan’s file from Alphonso David, a former Cuomo legal adviser who is now president of the Human Rights Campaign, a pro-LGBT organization. DeRosa sought the information after Boylan tweeted on Dec. 9, 2020, that Cuomo was "one of the biggest abusers of all time." Her allegation led to a tidal wave of accusers coming forward to describe sexual harassment they faced while working for the Democratic governor.

David, who took over the Human Rights Campaign in August 2019, sent Boylan’s file to Azzopardi on Dec. 11, 2020. David testified he kept Boylan’s records even after leaving government service because it "may have been the only instance where [he] was actually involved in a counseling of an employee when [he] was in the Executive Chamber." David counseled Boylan in September 2018 following a workplace conflict with another employee in the governor’s office.

Azzopardi sent the information about Boylan to reporters from numerous news outlets, including the Associated Press, New York Times, New York Post, New York Daily News, the Hill, and CBS, according to the attorney general’s report.

The files in question included discussions of complaints made against Boylan in 2018. David had labeled the files "confidential" and "privileged."

The Cuomo aides and David also wrote and circulated a draft of an op-ed intended to discredit Boylan. The attorney general’s office said that while the op-ed was never published, the draft "constitutes retaliation" when considered alongside the release of Boylan’s personnel files.

DeRosa and David also took part in discussions about secretly recording another woman who accused Cuomo of touching her inappropriately. The report says DeRosa directed a former Cuomo staffer to surreptitiously record the accuser, identified only as Kaitlin, to find out if she was coordinating her story with Boylan. The report says David was involved in discussions about recording Kaitlin.

David and the Human Rights Campaign did not respond to requests for comment. The governor’s office also did not respond to requests for comment.