Cuomo Wasn't the First: Time's Up Leaders Have History of Covering Up Liberal Scandals

#MeToo group's founders resigned following reports they helped smear Cuomo accuser

Time's Up cofounders Tina Tchen and Roberta Kaplan / Edited from Getty Images
August 27, 2021

Time's Up, the #MeToo organization whose leaders former governor Andrew Cuomo (D., N.Y.) enlisted to help smear his accusers, has a history of whitewashing investigations for its liberal cronies.

With a roster of feminist icons and deep ties to the Democratic Party, Time's Up has been hailed as an advocate for victims of sexual assault and workplace sexual harassment. Formed in 2018 in the wake of the sexual assault scandal that involved Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, the organization is now rocked by reports that its founders advised Cuomo's office as part of his effort to discredit a woman who accused him of sexual harassment.

Tina Tchen and Roberta Kaplan, Time's Up's cofounders, resigned this month from the organization following reports that they advised Cuomo's team on the release of an op-ed that discredited one of his accusers, former aide Lindsey Boylan. While the Cuomo saga forced the Time's Up duo to resign, it is not the first time that the activists—and Time's Up as a whole—intervened to protect their high-profile friends.

Tchen, a close ally of the Obamas who attended the former president's recent birthday bash, intervened on behalf of actor Jussie Smollett during an investigation into his Jan. 2019 fabrication of a hate crime. Tchen contacted Chicago district attorney Kimberly Foxx (D.) with concerns from Smollett's family about the investigation. Foxx dropped 16 felony charges against Smollett in the weeks after Tchen's outreach. The prosecutor instead required Smollett to pay a $10,000 fine and complete community service. Jurnie Smollett, the actor's sister, is on Time's Up's board of directors.

Tchen, who from 2011 to 2017 was Michelle Obama's chief of staff, has been accused of whitewashing allegations of racism and sexism made against the Southern Poverty Law Center. The civil rights group hired Tchen to complete an independent investigation of its workplace culture after revelations broke about its founder and several board members.  A former Southern Poverty Law Center employee last week excoriated Tchen in an essay, saying she conducted a sham investigation and was hired to protect the reputation of the group.

Tchen and Kaplan also tried to quash a scandal earlier this year that involved Esther Choo, a director of Time's Up Healthcare, an arm of the advocacy group that focuses on sexual harassment in the health care field. Four cofounders of Time's Up Healthcare resigned from the organization after Choo was accused in a lawsuit of advising a woman not to file a sexual assault complaint against one of her friends, celebrity doctor Jason Campbell.

Rather than remove Choo from her position, Tchen and Kaplan rallied to her defense and stifled criticism from within Time's Up. According to the New York Times, Kaplan called the Time's Up volunteers who resigned from the organization "crazy" and "insane." She also took on Choo as a legal client.

The investigation into Time's Up's coverup for Cuomo highlights similarities with how the organization responded to allegations of sexual misconduct against Joe Biden.

The Washington Post reported that Tchen advised Time's Up officers to "stand down" from issuing a statement in support of Boylan after the former Cuomo aide publicly accused him of making unwanted sexual advances.

Tchen issued a similar directive last year, when Tara Reade alleged that then-candidate Joe Biden sexually assaulted her in the 1990s. The New York Times reported that Tchen urged other advocacy groups to hold off on a letter of support for Reade, saying that she was in contact with the Biden campaign on the issue.

Tchen and Kaplan are not the only Time's Up leaders who leaped to Cuomo's aid. Hilary Rosen, a Democratic operative and CNN commentator, urged Time's Up officials not to issue a statement in support of Boylan. According to the Post, Rosen did not want to give conservative outlets, such as Fox News, an anti-Cuomo headline to chew on.

"This affair shows how left-wing nonprofits like Time's Up care more about weaponizing issues for political allies than helping the people in whose name they claim to speak," said Scott Walter, the president of Capital Research Center, a watchdog organization that monitors the political activities of progressive groups.

Time's Up did not respond to questions about Rosen's status with the organization.