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Time’s Up leader Tina Tchen resigns in fallout from Andrew Cuomo sexual harassment scandal

Tina Tchen, right, speaks during a luncheon this month in Edgartown, Mass. (Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for Martha's Vineyard Film Festival)

Tina Tchen, the president and CEO of Time’s Up, told her staff Thursday that she will resign, less than a day after she admitted that her organization’s private consultations with then-New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo during his sexual harassment scandal were more extensive than previously known.

A former Chicago corporate lawyer who became first lady Michelle Obama’s chief of staff, Tchen has led the advocacy group focused on fighting workplace sexual misconduct since 2019. She co-founded the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund with the attorney Roberta Kaplan, who resigned this month after New York Attorney General Letitia James uncovered some of her consultations with Cuomo advisers about the governor’s response to his first sexual harassment accuser, Lindsey Boylan.

Tchen also co-founded with Kaplan a private consulting company, HABIT Advisors, which focused on advising companies about how to handle sexual harassment. The website for that firm was taken offline in recent weeks.

“Now is the time for Time’s Up to evolve and move forward as there is so much more work to do for women,” Tchen said in a statement after announcing her resignation. “It is clear that I am not the leader who can accomplish that in 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 battling each other in harmful ways.”

Tchen has apologized profusely and repeatedly for the pain her actions have caused sexual abuse survivors because of her role in the Cuomo administration’s efforts to deflect accusations of sexual harassment. The attorney general reported this month that Kaplan had spoken with Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, about a letter intended to undermine Boylan. Kaplan, who resigned from the Time’s Up board weeks ago, had read the letter to Tchen at the time, investigators found.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Time’s Up’s contacts with DeRosa at the time were more extensive than the James report found. Kaplan spoke with DeRosa about Cuomo’s first response to Boylan’s allegations, and relayed those conversations to Tchen. Tchen also launched a separate effort at the time to get Cuomo to launch a review of his workplace culture. She also decided against releasing a planned statement supporting Boylan after objections from the organization.

“I deeply regret that survivors, who have already endured a great deal, feel let down and betrayed. That was not my intention,” Tchen said earlier Wednesday in a statement to The Post.

The Time’s Up board announced that Monifa Bandele, the group’s chief operating officer, would take over as interim CEO.

“Tina Tchen has dedicated her life to making workplaces fair and equitable for workers and safer for women,” the board said in a statement. “Accepting her resignation today is the right thing to do to move the organization forward and we are grateful for her hard work and impact and this demonstration of accountability.”

Melanie Campbell, the convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable, said Tchen has had a major impact on public policy dating from her days in the White House, when she worked on such issues as equal pay and the Lilly Ledbetter Act on fair pay. “When it comes to the women’s movement she has been very active for issues impacting women and girls for as long as I have known her,” Campbell said. “I know she is a very committed person.”

Following her resignation, Tchen said she would “continue to work for change in other ways.” She noted that she had spent her career fighting for positive change for women.

In recent days, Tchen has framed the crisis at the organization as a structural tension between two different missions.

“We tried to do two things, which is to hold powerful people accountable when that needs to happen, but then also to work with them to make things better,” Tchen said in an interview with the Skimm, published Thursday.

She said the challenge for Time’s Up in the future would be to figure out how to fulfill both of those missions better, without taking actions that “lead survivors to question us or feel as though we have betrayed them, which is never something that we wanted to do.”

“We clearly see how we could be used as cover,” Tchen added. “And let’s be clear, what I believe happened with the Cuomo administration is we were used as cover in ways I had no understanding of until the AG’s report.”

Cuomo resigned over the sexual harassment scandal, effective Tuesday.