The CEO of Time’s Up, the advocacy group formed to fight workplace discrimination and harassment, has resigned, after her role in advising former Governor Andrew Cuomo on his sexual misconduct scandal was revealed.
The Washington Post reports that Tina Tchen told staffers she would resign on Thursday. She also released a statement, “Now is the time for Time’s Up to evolve and move forward as there is so much more work to do for women. 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’sUp 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.”
Her resignation follows the departure of Roberta Kaplan, who had been chair of Time’s Up and co-founder of its legal defense fund, from the organization soon after the release of New York Attorney General Letitia James’s report that found Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women. Cuomo’s top adviser, Melissa DeRosa, had reached out to Tchen and Kaplan to review an op-ed that had been drafted to support the governor after a former staffer, Lindsey Boylan, accused him of sexual harassment last December.
While many people felt the draft that included mentions of Boylan’s interactions with other male staffers was “victim-shaming,” the report stated, “According to Ms. DeRosa, Ms. Kaplan read the letter to the head of the advocacy group Times Up, and both of them allegedly suggested that, without the statements about Ms. Boylan’s interactions with male colleagues, the letter was fine.”
The Washington Post had reported on Wednesday that Kaplan was communicating with DeRosa about Boylan’s accusations before a larger group of Time’s Up leadership met to discuss their response: “Tchen initially told the group that she did not think a Time’s Up statement about Boylan’s claims was appropriate. ‘I agree wit [sic] hilary.'”—board member Hillary Rosen—”‘The story is all over the place with this survivor,’ she wrote to the group. In the text thread, Tchen also objected to the substance of the statement that [then-vice president of communications Amanda] Harrington had circulated. ‘Just looked at statement and not sure I even like that on [sic] she deserves to be heard,’ Tchen continued. ‘She has been in the context she wants to be heard so no one is saying she shouldn’t but the way she is speaking in not wanting to talk further doesn’t mean she wants to be heard more. So I would say nothing right now.'”
Tchen, who had been chief of staff for Michelle Obama at the White House, told the Washington Post, “I was referring to the fact that Lindsey’s story was all over the news. I was not saying I disbelieved Lindsey.”
Over the weekend, the NY Times looked at the troubles that Time’s Up has been having, and when asked why she had consulted with Cuomo and his team, Tchen explained, “I thought we were dealing with an office that wanted to do the right thing.”
Variety had reported on Monday, after the Times article, that Tchen still had support of key Time’s Up backers, like Shonda Rhimes, and would remain CEO.
Time’s Up has had a cozy relationship with Cuomo, with Kaplan and celebrities associated with the movement, like Julianne Moore and Mira Sorvino, joining him at a press conference where he signed legislation extending the statue of limitations for rape. The Daily Beast detailed in April, after multiple women accused Cuomo of sexual misconduct, that staffers felt the group was too friendly to Cuomo; “In one incident, former staffers said they were required to take a photo of a Cuomo critic off their website after the governor called to complain.”
“I deeply regret that survivors, who have already endured a great deal, feel let down and betrayed. That was not my intention,” Tchen had told the Washington Post on Wednesday.