Time’s Up: CEO Tina Tchen Steps Down Amid Growing Cuomo Backlash

The move comes on the heels of the exec’s fellow Legal Defense Fund co-founder Roberta Kaplan resigning over the organization’s involvement in the former New York governor’s response to sexual harassment claims.

Time’s Up CEO Tina Chen has resigned in the wake of a growing controversy involving the gender equity group’s involvement in former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s response to sexual harassment claims. Monifa Bandele has been appointed interim CEO, the board of the organization stated on Thursday.

“Now is the time for TIME’S UP to evolve and move forward as there is so much more work to do for women,” wrote Tchen in a statement posted on social media. “It is clear that I am not the leader who can accomplish that in this moment.”

The board of Time’s Up released a statement that read, in part: “Accepting Tchen’s resignation today is the right thing to do to move the organization forward and we are grateful for her grace and leadership in pushing for more accountability in how TU shows up across the country and to our stakeholders.”

In stepping into the interim CEO role, Bandele will be tasked with the mission to “rebuild the organization and honor and respect the experiences of survivors and the broader community of women at work whom we serve,” the board of Time’s Up stated.

Bandele, who was named Time’s Up COO in October 2020, has been a driver in expanding Time’s Up’s purview to include racial justice. Before joining Time’s Up, she launched two legal cases regarding police misconduct in New York City and worked to pass landmark police reform legislation in New York State.

The resignation of Tchen follows an Aug. 25 Washington Post story that revealed Tchen had a more extensive role in advising Cuomo’s office on how to address allegations made by Lindsey Boylan than was previously acknowledged.

According to the report, Tchen told Time’s Up staffers to “stand down” on releasing a statement in support of Boylan. The Post story cited text message exchanges between five senior Time’s Up advisors including Tchen that came a day after former Time’s Up chairwoman Roberta Kaplan was briefed by a top Cuomo aide about his initial response to Boylan’s allegations. On Aug. 9, Kaplan, who co-founded the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund with Tchen, stepped down from the organization that was created with a mandate to stamp out sexual harassment in the workplace.

Tchen convened an emergency meeting to address the mounting fallout and remained defiant amid calls for her resignation from survivors. The organization has been reeling since New York Attorney General Letitia James published a report that found that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women and named Time’s Up as among those who advised the disgraced governor on how to handle the claims. That prompted a group of sexual assault survivors and victims, current and former Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund clients and former Time’s Up staffers to pen an open letter to the Time’s Up board accusing the group of prioritizing “proximity to power over mission” in regard to its relationship with Cuomo.

After Kaplan’s exit, Tchen maintained that she did not recall the details of her conversation with Kaplan regarding Boylan.

Tchen, a lawyer and former chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama, was named to the CEO post in 2019 after Lisa Borders stepped down from the post the previous year following sexual assault allegations leveled against her son.

Activist and sexual assault survivor Alison Turkos, who organized the survivors’ letter calling for an investigation into Time’s Up on Aug. 9., said of Tchen’s resignation: “The problems at Time’s Up are deeper than Tina Tchen. They’re systemic. They go beyond her. In her statement there is no acknowledgement of changed behavior and no movement toward repair. In her statement, Tina says we are battling each other in harmful ways. She could have taken that space for self-reflection, and yet what she opted to do was to go after the very community that is attempting to make this movement better.”