NEW YORK (AP) — Time’s Up CEO and president Tina Tchen resigned Thursday in the wake of revelations that leaders of the sexual harassment victims’ advocacy group advised former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration after he was accused of sexual misconduct.
In a statement posted to Twitter, Tchen — the former chief of staff to Michelle Obama — said she’s “spent a career fighting for positive change for women” but she wasn’t the right person to lead the #MeToo-era organization at this time.
“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.
Monifa Bandele, who left MomsRising to become chief operating officer of Time’s Up in October, will serve as interim CEO.
Tchen’s resignation comes on the heels of the departure of Roberta Kaplan, who stepped down as the chair of the board of directors Aug. 9. After months of resisting calls for his resignation, Cuomo himself left office earlier this week.
An independent investigation overseen by New York’s attorney general culminated in a report that concluded Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women. The report said top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa sent a letter that sought to discredit his first public accuser, Lindsey Boylan, to Kaplan — her attorney — for review.
“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.
Tchen had resisted calls for her ouster for weeks, but said Thursday it was time for her to “resign and continue to work for change in other ways.”
Boylan pushed back against Tchen’s characterization of what led to her resignation, accusing Tchen of continuing to not “take responsibility for the harm she’s caused.”
“We aren’t fighting. We aren’t confused,” Boylan tweeted. She was echoed by another Cuomo accuser, Charlotte Bennett, who compared Tchen to the disgraced Democrat, tweeting that she “goes out the same way our former Governor did — listing her accomplishments, pointing the finger at others, and attempting to justify her inexcusable behavior.”
Carrie Goldberg, who represented one of Harvey Weinstein’s accusers, also found fault with Tchen’s statement.
“It’s inaccurate to say that activists/women are ‘battling each other,” she tweeted. “Rather, it’s survivors in the trenches fed up with powerbrokers making backroom deals and hoarding control.”
Weinstein’s downfall, galvanized by explosive revelations published in The New York Times and The New Yorker in October 2017, directly led to the founding of Time’s Up in January 2018. More than 300 women in entertainment — from television powerhouse Shonda Rhimes to actresses Reese Witherspoon and Eva Longoria — signed an open letter establishing them as founders.
Its high-profile debut continued with that 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, a lawyer, previously served as an assistant to President Barack 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 survivors with legal costs, and had raised nearly $22 million less than a year after its founding.
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.