Time's Up Founder Helped Cuomo Team Smear Governor's Accuser

Anti-sexual harassment group worked with Cuomo aides to discredit Lindsey Boylan

Roberta Kaplan (Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Fortune)
August 4, 2021

The founder of a group committed to fighting sexual harassment in the workplace advised Gov. Andrew Cuomo's (D., N.Y.) team on an op-ed intended to smear one of his accusers.

A report released by the New York attorney general’s office said Roberta Kaplan, the cofounder of Time’s Up, advised the Cuomo team about an op-ed the governor wrote to discredit Lindsey Boylan, a former Cuomo adviser who accused the governor of sexual misconduct in December 2020. A top Cuomo aide said Kaplan and Time’s Up CEO Tina Tchen largely approved of the op-ed. The piece, which was never published, "denied the legitimacy of Ms. Boylan’s allegations, impugned her credibility, and attacked her claims as politically motivated," according to the attorney general’s report.

The finding could undercut Kaplan and her organization’s claims to be champions of the #MeToo movement. Kaplan and Tchen, a former Obama White House official, cofounded Time’s Up in 2018, in the wake of allegations of sexual assault against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. The allegations against Cuomo are arguably the biggest #MeToo case in the past couple years.

New York attorney general Letitia James (D.) found Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 state employees and other women. The Democrat made inappropriate sexual comments and touched some of the women without their consent, according to the report. James also accused Cuomo’s advisers of retaliating against Cuomo’s accusers.

Cuomo penned the op-ed after Boylan publicly accused the governor of being "one of the biggest abusers of all time." Cuomo asked Melissa DeRosa, his top lieutenant, to reach out to Kaplan for advice about the letter he had written about Boylan. According to DeRosa, Kaplan said she shared the document with Tchen.

"[Kaplan and Tchen] allegedly suggested that, without the statements about Ms. Boylan’s interactions with male colleagues, the letter was fine," the report says.

Kaplan, who also serves as legal counsel for DeRosa, has longstanding ties to Cuomo. The governor was quoted in a glowing Washington Post profile of Kaplan this year, saying she "has been indispensable in the fight against the cancer of hate and division that Trump spent four years exacerbating." Kaplan represents E. Jean Carroll, the journalist who accused Trump of sexual assault, as well as Trump’s niece, Mary Trump.

Kaplan is not the only progressive activist who advised Cuomo's team on how to respond to Boylan. Alphonso David, the former general counsel for Cuomo and current president of the Human Rights Campaign, also helped the Cuomo team go after Boylan. The attorney general’s report says David provided Cuomo’s advisers with Boylan’s personnel file, which was then leaked to news outlets.

David offered advice about the op-ed and helped the team round up signatures for a letter of support for Cuomo. He was also part of discussions about having a former Cuomo staffer secretly record another Cuomo accuser named Kaitlin.

David on Tuesday called on Cuomo to resign but did not acknowledge his involvement in the smear campaign. David and HRC did not respond to requests for comment from the Washington Free Beacon.

Time’s Up issued a statement calling on Cuomo to resign from office but did not address Kaplan and Tchen’s alleged involvement in advising Cuomo’s team. Time’s Up did not respond to a list of questions from the Free Beacon about the report.

The Free Beacon reported in March that other executives with the group have been accused of turning a blind eye to sexual misconduct in the workplace. Esther Choo, a cofounder of Time’s Up, was accused in a lawsuit this year of counseling a victim of sexual harassment against filing a complaint against Dr. Jason Campbell, the so-called TikTok Doc. The lawsuit says Choo told Campbell’s accuser it was "never worth it" to report sexual harassment cases.

Choo remains a member of Time’s Up’s board of directors.