Time's Up Founder Resigns in Wake of Cuomo Scandal

Roberta Kaplan advised governor on how to smear accuser

Roberta Kaplan (Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Fortune)
August 9, 2021

The cofounder of a prominent #MeToo organization resigned on Monday following revelations that she helped Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D., N.Y.) smear a woman who accused him of sexual harassment.

Roberta Kaplan submitted her resignation from the board of Time's Up, which she and former Obama White House official Tina Tchen cofounded in 2018 following the wave of sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein. Kaplan said she had "reluctantly" decided to resign. The announcement came hours after a group of current and former Time's Up staff members accused the board of "failing" sexual abuse survivors.

According to New York attorney general Letitia James's (D.) report, Kaplan advised Cuomo's office on an op-ed the governor wrote to undercut a former staffer, Lindsey Boylan, who accused him of sexual harassment. The report said that Kaplan and Tchen largely approved of the op-ed, save for a section in which Cuomo wrote about Boylan's relationship with other men. The op-ed was never published, but the attorney general's report said the effort to release it was part of a campaign of retaliation against Boylan and other Cuomo accusers.

The resignation marks a massive shake up at Time's Up, which boasts a number of prominent celebrities and activists on its board of directors. Oprah Winfrey and feminist icon Gloria Steinem serve as "visionary ambassadors" for the organization.

Kaplan's position was further complicated by her legal representation of Melissa DeRosa, a former top aide to Cuomo who is portrayed in the attorney general's report as one of the scandal's main villains. DeRosa resigned on Sunday from her office.

Kaplan said in her resignation statement that her representation of DeRosa was incompatible with remaining at Time's Up.

"I therefore have reluctantly come to the conclusion that an active law practice is no longer compatible with serving on the Board at Time's Up at this time and I hereby resign," Kaplan wrote.

Time's Up has faced other accusations that it has failed sexual abuse victims. Esther Choo, a Time's Up board member, was accused in a lawsuit this year of ignoring sexual assault allegations against one of her friends, celebrity doctor Jason Campbell. Choo remains on the Time's Up board and is represented by Kaplan.

Kaplan is not the only activist implicated in the smear campaign for Cuomo.

Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, a prominent LGBT group, has also come under fire for helping Cuomo's team. David advised Cuomo's aides on the op-ed and provided them with a copy of Boylan's personnel file from her stint working in the governor's office. David was Cuomo's general counsel until 2019.

The board of the Human Rights Campaign renewed its contract with David last week. Staffers at the organization called on him to resign during a conference call after the release of the attorney general's report. The campaign announced on Monday that it hired the law firm Sidley Austin to conduct an independent investigation of David.