Time’s Up CEO Tina Tchen resigns in wake of Cuomo scandal

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Tina Tchen

FILE – In this June 23, 2014, file photo, Tina Tchen, chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama, speaks at the White House Summit on Working Families in Washington. Tchen, who went on to become the CEO of the sex harassment victims’ advocacy group Time’s Up, resigned from the position on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021, in the wake of revelations that leaders of the group advised former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on how to handle allegations made against him. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — The chief executive of the sexual harassment victims’ advocacy group Time’s Up resigned Thursday amid outrage over revelations that its leaders advisedformer New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration after he was first accused of misconduct last year.

Time’s Up CEO and president Tina Tchen said in a statement that she’s “spent a career fighting for positive change for women” but was no longer the right person to lead the #MeToo-era organization.

“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,” she wrote.

The group’s chief operating officer, Monifa Bandele, will serve as interim CEO.

Tchen’s resignation comes after the Aug. 9 departure of the organization’s chair, Roberta Kaplan. Both women had been the target of ire from Time’s Up supporters over the idea they had offered any help to Cuomo, who resigned Monday, three weeks after an investigation overseen by New York’s attorney generalconcluded he sexually harassed at least 11 women.

The report detailed Cuomo’s attempt to discredit his first public accuser, Lindsey Boylan, after she accused him last December of making inappropriate comments, but before she explicitly detailed allegations of unwanted touching and kissing.

Text messages obtained by The Washington Post show that Tchen initially discouraged other Time’s Up leaders from making any public comment about Boylan’s allegations. Later,top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa asked Kaplan — her attorney — to review a letter the governor’s supporters intended to circulate attacking Boylan’s credibility.

“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 report said, without explicitly naming Tchen.

The letter was ultimately never released.

Later, after Boylan expanded on her allegations against Cuomo, T ime’s Up called for an investigation.

Boylan noted Thursday that Tchen’s resignation statement didn’t include an apology.

“It’s sad that @TinaTchen still can’t take responsibility for the harm she’s caused,” Boylan tweeted. That sentiment was echoed by another Cuomo accuser, Charlotte Bennett.

“Instead of offering a sincere apology to the survivors, activists and allies she’s harmed, @TinaTchen goes out the same way our former Governor did — listing her accomplishments, pointing the finger at others, and attempting to justify her inexcusable behavior. Good riddance.”

Tchen declined further comment.

Time’s Up got its start in January 2018 amid outrage over sexual misconduct by the film producer Harvey Weinstein. More than 300 women in entertainment — from television powerhouse Shonda Rhimes to actresses Reese Witherspoon and Eva Longoria — signed an open letter that established them as founders.

Its high-profile debut continued withthat month’s Golden Globes, in which attendees donned black and sported Time’s Up pins to call attention to the movement for gender equality.

Tchen previously served as an assistant to then-President Barack Obama, chief of staff to then-first lady Michelle Obama and executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls. She co-founded the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund in 2017, along with Kaplan and two other women. The fund was established to help everyday survivors with legal costs, and had raised nearly $22 million less than a year after its founding.

In a statement Thursday, the Time’s Up board praised Tchen’s tenure, saying she “has made a difference in the lives of so many and we are grateful for her hard work and impact.” But accepting her resignation was a measure of accountability, the board said.

This isn’t the first time the advocacy group has been roiled by leadership issues. Tchen took the helm in 2019, after former WNBA president Lisa Borders stepped down as president and CEOfollowing sexual misconduct allegations against her own son.

Tarana Burke, the founder of #MeToo and a member of Time’s Up’s extended board, offered her perspective on the troubled waters earlier this week to The Associated Press. She described Time’s Up as a young organization with good intentions that’s now grappling with how to wield power.

“I think they have to do a lot of soul searching and at the end of the day,” she said. “It may come out the other end to be that they have to figure out how to work differently, that they have to relinquish some of the power and they have to sacrifice some of the wins in order to do the work well, in the way that people trust.”

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Associated Press reporter Jocelyn Noveck contributed to this report.

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