Tina Tchen, president and CEO of the sexual harassment victims’ advocacy group Time’s Up, recently resigned after allegations that she helped advise former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. At the time, Tchen actively discouraged Time’s Up leaders from making any public comments about first accuser Lindsey Boylan’s allegations against Cuomo. It was later revealed in the release of the state attorney general report that Gov. Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 women, including current and former staffers, and a state trooper. The report includes Boylan. So much for “believe all women.”
Tchen previously served as former First Lady Michelle Obama’s chief of staff and then joined Time’s Up in 2019. A Dec. 15 text message involving 5 senior Time’s up advisers had worked with Cuomo’s office as he faced sexual harassment allegations against Boylan.
Boylan first accused the New York governor of making inappropriate comments, unwanted touching, and kissing. When she went public with her allegations, Cuomo’s aide Melissa DeRosa got a second opinion on a letter that would attack Boylan’s credibility. DeRosa’s lawyer took the governor’s statement discrediting Boylan over to the organization’s chair, Roberta Kaplan, as well as Tchen.
The lawyer’s report reads, “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.” Tchen’s name was never mentioned in the report.
Cuomo’s aides also contacted the Human Rights Campaign, a leading LGBT civil rights group. They contacted human Rights executive director Alphonso David, who’d previously worked on Cuomo’s counsel, and asked him to draw a copy of Boylan’s personnel record. The AG’s report reveals that aide’s leaked complaints from the file to smear her image and undermine her credibility.
Tchen tweeted her resignation and said that now is the time for “Time’s Up” to evolve and move forward. She said it is time to resign and work for change in “other ways,” adding that Time’s Up will continue to engage in thoughtful and meaningful ways.
“It is clear that I am not the leader who can accomplish that at this moment. 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 of battling each other in harmful ways,” Tchen tweeted.
The New York Attorney General’s report called Tchen’s action’s an “unlawful retaliation” effort against Boylan. But Tchen has continued to be praised by the company. The Time’s Up board even praised her tenure, adding that she has made a difference in the lives of so many and that everyone is grateful for her hard work.
This isn’t the first time that the group has faced leadership scandals. Former WNBA President Lisa Borders stepped down as president in 2019 following the sexual misconduct allegations against her own son. Founder Tarana Burke said that the organization has good intentions but is starting to grapple with wielding power.
“I think they have to do a lot of soul searching and at the end of the day. 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,” Burke said.
Tchen later shared with the Washington Post that she “deeply regrets” how Cuomo’s survivors feel let down and betrayed, adding that it was not her intention.
Time’s Up has always been a Hollywood charity fraud in response to the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment case. Their only job was to “believe all women” and they still couldn’t even manage that. Talk about pouring the gasoline on your own company.