Nancy Brinker Leadership Change Probably Won't Do Much To Improve Komen's Reputation

Fallout continues from the Susan B. Komen Foundation for the Cure's major PR fuckup six months ago, when it was announced that the organization would be cutting funds for breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood. The decision, rescinded within three days after the public outcry, was criticized for its possible right-wing political influence (and, in fact, led to the almost-immediate February resignation of former Komen VP and policymaker Karen Handel, a 2010 Georgia GOP candidate who had campaigned against Planned Parenthood during her run and was supposedly the driving force behind the decision).

They've been scrambling to regain the trust of individual donors, whose contribution fell from 5% to 30% nationwide, and are now defending the most recent development in Komen's recovery: Nancy Brinker's resignation from her post as CEO of Komen (she'll be heading up a more fundraising-focused role), as well as the departure of president Liz Thompson and two board members. Despite the clamoring from critics that Brinker step down, a spokeswoman says that the decision was unrelated to the Planned Parenthood snafu and Thompson had informed Komen officials that she wanted to leave in April but would stay on to do damage control.

However, breast cancer activists and former Komen employees have spoken out about the bureaucratic motives behind the decision to shift Brinker to "revenue creation" and leave the hiring of a new CEO in her hands. The Planned Parenthood incident was hardly the first that raised questions of Komen's level of commitment to the cause, just the loudest. Under Brinker's reign, the organization was accused of "pink marketing," wanton ribbon-branding by the organization without the efforts to back it up. One of the trickledown effects of this is less money donated to other valuable breast cancer organizations, according to Brenda Coffee, a breast cancer survivor and filmmaker at Breastcancersisterhood.org. Coffee further speculates that Brinker will still be "pulling the strings" from her new position.

And Eve Ellis, a Komen New York board member from 2004 to 2010, says:

That makes me think this is a public relations stunt. [Brinker] will be in a position to fire and hire and politicize women's health care. I understand that she will no longer be chief executive officer. But she will be the decision maker on who the C.E.O. is. This is problematic.

There's no word yet on who Brinker will be appointing, but Lisa Wolter, a Komen executive director in California who counts herself among the affiliate directors who voiced their concerned about the Planned Parenthood decision, seems determined to find the silver lining in all this. It sounds eerily familiar to Brinker's cheerful, oblivious press releases: "In a lot of ways, this whole spotlight on what we do has motivated people who care about breast health."

Um. OTAY.

'Komen's Leadership Changes Are Met With Skepticism' [The New York Times]