Tina Tchen, the head of the survivor advocacy group Time’s Up, has resigned after New York State Attorney General Letitia James’s bombshell report implicated her and another founding member of the organization in an effort to discredit one of Andrew Cuomo’s accusers.
Tchen announced her departure on Thursday, writing that her leadership role at Time’s Up had become a “painful and divisive focal point” causing “women and other activists who should be working together to fight for change “ to instead “[battle] each other in harmful ways.”
“Now is the time for Time’s Up to evolve and move forward as there is so much more work to do for women,” she wrote. “It is clear that I am not the leader who can accomplish that at the moment.”
Tchen is the second cofounder to step down from the organization following the results of James’s probe. Earlier this month, the prominent attorney Roberta Kaplan announced her resignation, concluding that it was no longer possible to maintain an “active law practice” while holding her position on Time’s Up board.
According to James’s report, the two cofounders became involved in the former governor’s efforts to salvage his reputation when they were asked to privately advise the administration about an op-ed letter Cuomo wanted to publish about Lindsey Boylan, a former aide who accused him of sexual harassment. The administration reportedly sent a draft of the letter to Kaplan, who then brought it to “the head of Time’s Up” for consultation. The two made suggestions before sending it back to Cuomo’s aides, though the op-ed was never published.
Subsequent investigations from the Washington Post and New York Times investigations found that Kaplan’s and Tchen’s apparent alliance with the administration went even deeper than the report suggested. The Times reported that Kaplan ran the organization’s statement on the Cuomo investigation past one of his top aides before releasing it, and offered suggestions about potential defense lawyers for Cuomo. And text messages obtained by the Post showed Tchen instructing her Time’s Up colleagues to refrain from showing any public support for Boylan, who was Cuomo’s first accuser. Tchen told the Post that the decision was in line with the organization’s policy of “not commenting on self-reported statements,” but “in doing so did not intend to silence Ms. Boylan or any survivor.”
“I deeply regret that survivors, who have already endured a great deal, feel let down and betrayed,” Tchen said. “That was not my intention.”
Much of the outcry against Time’s Up was led by survivors, who did feel let down and betrayed by Tchen and the other cofounders. In early August, Alison Turkos, a sexual assault survivor who has spoken out about being kidnapped and raped by her Lyft driver in 2017, published an open letter accusing the organization of being “complicit in enabling abuse.”
The letter, signed by 145 survivors, called on Time’s Up to meet eight demands, the first of which asks the group to conduct an independent investigation and publish a report on “the full extent to which Time’s Up and National Women’s Law Center board members and staff members have been approached by, offered advice to, or are representing perpetrators of harm.”
Turkos told Jezebel that Tchen and Kaplan resigning is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t address deeper issues at Time’s Up that go beyond this recent incident.
“The problems at TIME’S UP and the National Women’s Law Center, which houses the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, are systemic, deeper than Robbie and Tina,” Turkos said. “In order to know the entire truth, and depth of harm, a third-party investigation must be completed and full results shared publicly.
“You have witnessed the collective power of survivors, you have seen us center one another, lift up each other’s stories and experiences, we are the experts in our own lives,” Turkos continued. “I just wish the leaders in our movement believed in us the same way we believe in one another.”
Jezebel has reached out to Time’s Up for comment about Tchen’s resignation and any other steps the group may take to address Turkos’s and others’ criticisms. We’ll update this post if we hear back.
Update (8/27/31, 9:45 a.m. EST) The Time’s Up board of directors has published the following statement to its site on Tchen, naming Monifa Bandele as the organization’s interim CEO:
“Tina Tchen has dedicated her life to making workplaces fair and equitable for workers and safer for women. That is why we asked her to lead TIME’S UP in the first place and why she has accomplished enormous changes in the two years she has served as our president. This includes guaranteeing support to the Silence Breakers and Harvey Weinstein survivors, developing a program to center women of color survivor voices, calling out sexism in politics, giving large corporations guidance to do the right thing and holding them accountable when their workplaces were not safe and equitable, and forcing the Golden Globes to address their toxic effect on the entertainment workplace. In sum, Tina has made a difference in the lives of so many and we are grateful for her hard work and impact. 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.”