An Accusation Blew Up a Campaign. The Media Didn’t Know What to Do.

An Accusation Blew Up a Campaign. The Media Didn’t Know What to Do.

The progressive website The Intercept (which had exposed a trumped-up sexual misconduct claim against a gay Democrat in Massachusetts last year) also looked into Ms. Kim’s accusations, calling former Stringer campaign aides, and found that a series of widely reported details from Ms. Pastor’s statement — though not Ms. Kim’s core allegations — were inaccurate. A longtime New York political hand who had known both Mr. Stringer and Ms. Kim at the time, Mike McGuire, also told me he’d been waiting to talk on the record about what he saw as factual errors in Ms. Kim’s lawyer’s account, but that I was only the second reporter to call him, after Ms. Glueck. Ms. Kim, meanwhile, had been open about her motives — she wanted voters to know about the allegation.

It’s easy to blame the relative lack of curiosity about the underlying story on the cliché of a hollowed-out local press corps, but that’s not really true in this case. The New York mayor’s race received rich and often ambitious coverage, as good and varied as I’ve seen at least since 2001, often from newer outlets like Politico and The City. The winner of the vote’s first round, Eric Adams, saw reporters investigate his donors and peer into his refrigerator.

In an article in Columbia Journalism Review, Andrea Gabor examined coverage of the race and found that the allegations had prompted news organizations to stop covering Mr. Stringer as a top-tier candidate. She suggested that reporters “recalibrate the judgments they make on how to cover candidates such as Stringer in their wake.”

In May, Mr. Stringer’s aides told me they were in talks with some former endorsers to return, as well as with the progressive movement’s biggest star, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, when they learned of an allegation from another woman: that some 30 years ago, Mr. Stringer had sexually harassed her when she worked for him at a bar. The Times reported the account of the second woman, Teresa Logan, with corroboration. The next day, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Maya Wiley, who came in second after the in-person voting ended. She said that time was running out and that progressives had to unite, a suggestion that the second allegation had made up her mind.

But when you get beyond the reporters gaming out winners and losers, and beyond politicians weighing endorsements, here’s the strange thing: It’s not clear there’s anything like a consensus among voters on how the decades-old allegations should have affected Mr. Stringer’s support. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, for instance, has weathered far more recent claims from his own aides. And even two of the legislators who dropped their support of Mr. Stringer told me they were still wrestling with the decision and their roles and that of the media. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez seemed to signal a similar concern when, on Election Day, she revealed that she had ranked Mr. Stringer second on her ballot.

State Senator Alessandra Biaggi said that the moment had been “incredibly painful” but that she’d begun to feel that “my integrity was being compromised” by staying with Mr. Stringer. She also said that if she were a New York City voter, she would have ranked Mr. Stringer among her top choices, and wished there was space for more nuance in public conversations about sexual misconduct allegations.

Yuh-Line Niou, a state assemblywoman from Manhattan, told me she thought the media had unfairly “put a lot of pressure on women who are survivors to speak up,” an experience that had been “scary and in a lot of ways violent.” She said she would have backed Mr. Stringer if he’d acknowledged that he’d harmed Ms. Kim, and added that his denial revealed that he had come from “a time when people don’t talk about what it is to be human, that you have to be perfect somehow.”

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