The head of a prominent group that’s supposed to help sexual harassment victims resigned Thursday in the fallout from disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s misconduct scandal.
TIME’S UP CEO Tina Tchen said she was leaving after it was revealed the organization worked closely with a top aide to Cuomo after former staffer Lindsey Boylan accused him of sexual harassment last December.
Tchen told her colleagues to “stand down” from a plan to release a public statement supporting Boylan, text messages first obtained by the Washington Post show. The texts came after two people in the organization spoke to top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa.
Tchen announced her resignation in a tweet on Thursday after the Washington Post story broke, admitting she had become a “divisive” figure.
“Now is the time for TIMES’S UP to evolve and move forward as there is so much more to do for women,” Tchen said in a statement.
“It is clear that I am not the leader who can accomplish that in this moment. I am especially aware that my position at the helm of TIME’S up has become a painful and divisive focal point, where those very women and other activists who should be working together to fight for change are instead battling each other in harmful ways.
“Therefore it is time for me to resign and continue to work for change in other ways, and to let TIME’S UP engage in the thoughtful and meaningful process I know will occur to move forward.”
TIME’S UP board of directors, in a statement, said, “Accepting her resignation today is a demonstration of accountability and will allow our organization to move forward. Beginning Tuesday, August 31st, Monifa Bandele will become our Interim CEO.”
DeRosa discussed Boylan’s accusations with Roberta Kaplan, who was then chairwoman of TIME’S UP board of directors. DeRosa reportedly raised concerns about Boylan’s credibility. Kaplan then consulted with Tchen, sources told The Washington Post.
Sean Hecker, an attorney representing DeRosa, said, “With respect to legal questions relating to how a complaint should be handled, Ms. DeRosa consulted with and relied upon advice of experienced counsel.”
Tchen apologized over her handling of the Boylan matter earlier this week.
“I deeply regret that survivors, who have already endured a great deal, feel let down and betrayed. That was not my intention,” Tchen told the Washington Post.
Tchen previously served as former First Lady Michelle Obama’s chief of staff and joined TIME’S UP in 2019.
The board of directors released a statement Wednesday night after a meeting that followed inquiries from the Washington Post, saying the directors are committed “to an independent review of our past actions, our current work as well as developing the processes and improvements necessary for furthering our mission.”
A Dec. 15 text message involving five senior TIME’S Up advisers revealed an extensive behind-the-scenes effort to work with Cuomo’s office as he faced sexual harassment – rather than Boylan, the accuser – than previously acknowledged.
Earlier this month, state Attorney General Letitia James released an investigative report that concluded that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, including current and former staffers and a state trooper.
The 165-page report found that Kaplan spoke with DeRosa about a separate draft letter responding to Boylan’s allegations, which probers claimed was part of an “unlawful retaliation” effort against Boylan. Kaplan had read the letter to Tchen, the report said.
Kaplan resigned as chairwoman of the TIME’S UP board right after the attorney general’s report was released, after getting slammed by advocates for sexual abuse survivors.
Cuomo, who was likely to be impeached and tossed out of office over the harassment findings, resigned effective Monday after 10 years in office.
He also faces multiple state and federal probes over his handling of nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic, his $5.1 million COVID book deal as well as ongoing criminal inquiries over his sexual misconduct. Cuomo has denied wrongdoing.
TIME’S UP is a charity which raises money to support victims of sexual harassment, founded by Hollywood celebrities and D.C. politicos in response to the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment case and the Me Too movement.
It’s not the only organization where there’s been fallout.
The Human Rights Campaign, a leading LGBT civil rights group, is investigating the role that its executive director Alphonso David, previously Cuomo’s counsel, played in the Boylan case. David had a copy of Boylan’s personnel record after he left Cuomo’s office and the AG’s report revealed that aides to the governor contacted him to retrieve it.
Cuomo’s aides then leaked complaints that subordinate workers lodged against Boylan as part of a smear campaign to undermine her credibility, the James report said. Boylan was a top official in Empire State Development, the state’s economic development agency.
Meanwhile two other former top Cuomo staffers who helped their ex-boss smear Boylan left their jobs at a politically connected public relations firm with millions of dollars in state contracts.
Josh Vlasto and Richard Bamberger — both former top Cuomo staffers who were named throughout the attorney general’s report as part of the governor’s “inner circle” — departed the PR firm Kivvit, The Post exclusively reported.