“We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives,” the Komen foundation announced in a statement Friday morning.
But officials across the organization said they were still reeling from the fallout of what many described as a public relations fiasco created by Komen’s leadership.
“I felt like we were eaten alive,” said Logan Hood, executive director of Komen’s Aspen affiliate in Colorado. “We had no advance warning.. . . We were sent into battle without armor.”
News of the original decision to defund Planned Parenthood set off an avalanche of e-mails, phone calls and tweets in opposition to the move as well as in support of it.
Several attempts by Komen officials this week to explain the decision only fueled the controversy. On Thursday evening, the foundation’s board of directors held a conference call to seek a way out.
“We had to fix what [people on all sides] were charging was political,” said Komen board member John D. Raffaelli. “I hope this addresses claims that we were acting politically. That was not our intention.”
According to the foundation’s statement, the grant criteria will be amended “to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political. That is what is right and fair.” It did not specifically state that the foundation would fund Planned Parenthood but said that the group would be eligible to apply for future grants.
Planned Parenthood celebrated the news. “We are enormously grateful that the Komen Foundation has clarified its grantmaking criteria, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with Komen partners, leaders and volunteers,” President Cecile Richards said in a statement.
Still unclear is the long-term impact on a charity long regarded as unassailably apolitical.
“Honestly, we have been turned into a political association without any political skills,” said Laura Farmer Sherman, executive director of the San Diego Komen affiliate. “There was not a crisis-management plan. I think they were completely caught off guard.”
The affiliate has already lost $50,000 in corporate sponsorship for a Race for the Cure in the fall. Farmer Sherman said she has scheduled meetings Saturday to try to make amends with supporters.
“There are some relationships that are, perhaps, irrevocably damaged,” she said.
Ann Hogan, board president for Komen’s Connecticut affiliate, also said that work would need to be done to regain the trust of Komen supporters. “Part of our next steps will be assuring our stakeholders that we’re still committed and that we still need their support,” she said. “But that doesn’t make [this week] go away.”