Heard Around Town

Scott Stringer’s defamation suit may be unwise – but the real goal may be to depose Jean Kim

The former New York City mayoral candidate thinks other people were working with the lobbyist whose 20-year-old allegations of sexual assault derailed his campaign – and he’s not willing to move on.

Then New York City Comptroller and mayoral candidate Scott Stringer on the campaign trail on May 19, 2021.

Then New York City Comptroller and mayoral candidate Scott Stringer on the campaign trail on May 19, 2021. (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Former New York City mayoral candidate Scott Stringer thinks there’s more to the story – and that may be why he’s filing a longshot defamation lawsuit against Jean Kim, 20 months after the lobbyist’s accusation of sexual assault 20 years prior derailed Stringer’s 2021 campaign. 

In fact, the complaint filed Monday opens by accusing Kim of “working with John and Jane Doe(s)” to spread “vicious lies.” Team Stringer has always thought that Kim was pushed by other people – maybe a rival mayoral campaign – to go public with her story. Stringer’s case is thin, in part because it was filed so late, wrote The New York Times, which was given the exclusive. But if a judge doesn’t throw it out, the case could give Stringer a chance to depose Kim under oath, and get documents in discovery that could reveal, among other things, who Kim talked to before and after the April 28, 2021 press conference. Stringer has a long memory. Said one former employee: “It’s probably trying to uncover who fucked them over so they can fuck people over in the future.”

It’s true that some questions never got answered during the campaign. Kim’s lawyer, Patricia Pastor, declined to comment today, and last June, she refused to say how she got connected with Kim. “I don’t advertise or publicize who refers my clients to me,” she told City & State. “So, none of your business, is my answer.”

Of course, none of it really matters – if Kim’s accusations of unwanted sexual contact are true, then who cares if a rival campaign encouraged her to go public? Stringer certainly does. He denied that he and Kim had anything but a casual, consensual relationship two decades prior. And since it’s likely impossible to find definitive proof of what happened in private 20 years ago, Stringer and his team have focused on raising minor inconsistencies in her story, and casting doubt on Kim by framing her story as politically motivated. The lawsuit may reveal more inconsistencies, or even more political connections. “He would not do this if he didn’t believe that something would come out if it ever gets to the discovery process,” said a political consultant who’s been following the case. 

Kim was a lobbyist and collected signatures for district leader candidate Esther Yang on sheets that also helped mayoral candidate Andrew Yang get on the ballot. Kim didn’t respond Monday to a request for comment.

There’s more than a little irony in Stringer’s argument that Kim hurt him by encouraging Rep. Carolyn Maloney to talk about the sexual assault allegation against him in Aug. 2022. (A legal loophole to file within the one-year statute of limitations) This lawsuit is bringing far more attention to him than Maloney’s comments did. But even if he can’t win in Manhattan supreme court, Stringer is thinking about the court of public opinion. “Yes, he wanted the discovery, and he also wanted a nice Times story that made him look like the victim,” said another political consultant who’s followed the case. Kim’s accusations hurt his wife, his kids “and ultimately hurt the city of New York,” Stringer told City & State. “These were lies. They were lies when they were made. And they are lies today. And the first step is to put this case forward so that we can finally set the record straight.”

It took a while to get here – “There’s a lot that goes into a case. I think we’re right on schedule,” Stringer said – but it’s clear that Stringer is not willing to let it go. Stringer briefly campaigned for state Senate earlier this year, but quickly dropped out after incumbent state Sen. Brad Hoylman said he’d run for the seat. Stringer, who’s long eyed Rep. Jerry Nadler’s Congressional seat, said he doesn’t have “any immediate plans to run for office.” But if he does run again, it isn’t clear whether this suit would ultimately help, or hurt his chances. “It’s definitely a big gamble.,” said the first consultant. “A lot of people were willing to move on. And he’s clearly not.”