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Time's Up CEO Resigns Over Cuomo Fallout

Time's Up CEO Tina Tchen — seen here at an event in July — has stepped down.
Tasos Katopodis
Getty Images for Care Can't Wait
Time's Up CEO Tina Tchen — seen here at an event in July — has stepped down.

Tina Tchen has resigned from her position as president and CEO of Time's Up, an organization whose mission is to protect women from harassment. It was the latest fallout from charges that Times' Up leaders privately consulted with then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has deniedaccusations by 11 women that he sexually harassed them.

"I am especially aware that my position at the helm of TIME'S UP has become a painful and divisive focal point," Tchen wrote in her resignation statement. "Those very women and other activists who should be working together to fight for change are instead battling each other in harmful ways."

Over the past few months, sexual abuse survivors have accused Time's Up leaders of betraying them, after New York Attorney General Letitia James reportedthey had consulted with a top Cuomo aide about how strong a stand Time's Up should take on the allegations. News reports alleged that Tchen and board chair Roberta Kaplan gave feedback on an unpublished opinion column smearing Cuomo accuser Lindsey Boylan. And The Washington Post publishedtext messages in which Tchen told colleagues to "stand down" from releasing a statement in support of Boylan.

Tchen was once a corporate lawyer in Chicago and became first lady Michelle Obama's chief of staff. She co-founded the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund with Kaplan, who also resigned from her position as board chair of Time's Up over the Cuomo matter.

In her statement, Tchen noted that she spent her career fighting for positive change for women, including during her time as executive director of the Obama administration's White House Council on Women and Girls. And she said leading Times' Up since 2019 had been rewarding.

"Change will come when we move those who run companies to enact policies to make things better for women and other workers, and when legislators enact laws to further gender equity and safety," she wrote. "TIME'S UP's advocacy was based on that premise, that we cannot just shout on the outside for change without helping companies, government leaders and policy makers find the solutions to do better. 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."

Just hours before her resignation, Tchen appeared in a panel discussion on The Skimm podcast, during which she was questioned about backlash over the Cuomo matter. She said Time's up needed to create change in a "responsible way that does not lead survivors to question us or feel as though we have betrayed them." She added that "the idea that my actions have caused pain to women is deeply, deeply and profoundly regretful to me."

Tchen said she had worked with powerful people for a long time to make change, but "I'm learning how when you do that work, there are guard rails you're gonna need to put up, and probably more guard rails than I fully understood or anticipated." When asked about mistakes Time's Up has made, she said, "We clearly see how we can be used as cover. And let's be clear – what I believe happened with the Cuomo administration was we were used as cover in ways I had no understanding of until the AG's report. That's a problem, and we can't let that happen. Our movement cannot be used as cover for folks who are trying to actually go at survivors or others."

The board of directors for Time's Up praised Tchen for "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."

The board also announced that beginning Tuesday, Monifa Bandele will become the interim CEO of Time's Up.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.