A prominent #MeToo organization that waged war on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh covered for both Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and then-presidential candidate Joe Biden, a report by the New York attorney general’s office and reporting by The New York Times shows.
TIME’S UP co-founder Roberta Kaplan resigned Aug. 9 after investigators found that she aided the Cuomo administration in discrediting his accusers, according to a report by the New York attorney general’s office. That report found that Cuomo had “sexually harassed a number of State employees through unwelcome and unwanted touching” and “offensive and sexually suggestive comments.”
- TIME’S UP co-founder Roberta Kaplan resigned after she was implicated in discrediting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s accusers. Her co-founder Tina Tchen was also repeatedly referenced in the New York attorney general’s report but denies any involvement in discrediting Cuomo accusers.
- A report from The New York Times found that not only did Tchen advise the Cuomo administration on dealing with #MeToo allegations, she also reportedly squashed advocacy organizations’ calls on Biden to respond to Tara Reade’s allegations.
- “Tina was denying me assistance at the same time as raising funds for the man who sexually assaulted me,” Reade told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “That alone should be grounds for her removal from Times Up.”
TIME’S UP co-founder Tina Tchen, who formerly served as Michelle Obama’s chief of staff. was also implicated in the report. But Tchen has vigorously denied any involvement in discrediting any Cuomo accusers, saying she would never work to “discredit a survivor in any way” and that she is “furious that the Governor’s office used me and TIME’S UP as a justification for their defense.”
The New York Times reported Saturday, however, that not only did Tchen advise the Cuomo administration on dealing with #MeToo allegations, she also reportedly squashed advocacy organizations’ efforts to call on Biden to respond to Reade’s allegations — while raising funds for his campaign.
“Times Up has become a joke,” Reade told the Daily Caller News Foundation Monday, “a catch and kill for the powerful elites.”
TIME’S UP And Andrew Cuomo
A report on the Cuomo investigation released in early August found that both Kaplan and TIME’S UP co-founder Tchen advised Cuomo’s team on an op-ed discrediting accuser Lindsey Boylan. The op-ed “denied the legitimacy of Ms. Boylan’s allegations, impugned her credibility, and attacked her claims as politically motivated,” according to the New York attorney general’s report.
Former top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa consulted with the TIME’S UP co-founders about the op-ed and Kaplan read the draft to Tchen, the Times reported. The co-founders reportedly advised against publishing the op-ed, which disparaged accusers, according to the publication.
DeRosa also asked Kaplan if she would lead the inquiry into Cuomo’s actions or represent the governor, several people involved told the Times. Kaplan said no, according to the publication, but discussed with DeRosa how TIME’S UP might respond to the investigation in a public statement.
Tchen and others told the Times that TIME’S UP leaders decided to issue a statement asking Cuomo to appoint his own independent investigator — a statement that Kaplan sent to DeRosa before it was issued, the Times reported.
“I thought we were dealing with an office that wanted to do the right thing,” Tchen told the Times when the publication asked her why she went back and forth with the Cuomo administration.
Tchen also said that she thought Kaplan was not acting in her capacity as chairwoman of TIME’S UP when conferring with the Cuomo administration, though DeRosa said the opposite.
“Nothing I did here was rogue for Time’s Up,” Kaplan told the Times regarding her dealings with the governor’s office. “Everything was discussed and expected and fully authorized.”
Tchen has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, saying she would never work to “discredit a survivor in any way.”
“I had a phone call with Robbie Kaplan about a letter she said was being sent by his staffers during which I gave the same advice I give to everyone else: No survivor should be attacked and the truth should be told,” she said in an Aug. 4 statement. “I’m furious that the Governor’s office used me and TIME’S UP as a justification for their defense.”
TIME’S UP And Joe Biden
Tchen helped host fundraisers for Biden when he became the presumptive Democratic nominee, raising concerns among TIME’S UP board members that the organization would appear to be too aligned with the future president, according to the Times.
And while Tchen was raising money for Biden as a private citizen, the Times reported, she reportedly held back a letter from women’s advocacy groups pushing Biden to respond to accuser Reade’s allegations of sexual assault.
One draft of the letter said, according to the Times: “Vice President Biden has the opportunity, right now, to model how to take serious allegations seriously.”
Tchen urged the groups to hold off on the letter in April 2020, sources told the Times, saying she was in touch with the Biden campaign, that Biden would respond to the allegations soon and that the women’s groups should not get in the way.
A TIME’S UP spokeswoman told the Times that Tchen pushed back against the letter because the call to action was not clear.
The same day that Biden finally denied Reade’s allegations in a May 1 MSNBC interview, Tchen praised Biden’s transparency in a MSNBC interview and TIME’S UP released a statement calling for “complete transparency.”
Later on that same day, according to the Times, Tchen joined other Obama administration officials at a virtual Biden fund-raising event.
TIME’S UP later asked the consulting and polling firm Global Strategy Group to help them survey attitudes about sexual harassment. The consulting group helped TIME’S UP create a report on how voters think about #MeToo issues that TIME’S UP posted on its website, the Times reported.
Another private version of the report that the publication obtained has additional slides on #MeToo allegations against people running for office, offering a model script on “What Candidates Need to Say.” TIME’S UP and Global Strategy Group told the Times that they did not share the slides with Cuomo, who is a client of Global Strategy Group, or with anyone else.
Global Strategy Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the DCNF.
TIME’S UP Kicks Tara Reade To The Curb
Reade had solicited TIME’S UP beginning January 2020 for aide in her allegations against Biden, then a presidential candidate.
The TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, which has committed over $10 million to support #MeToo allegations in the workplace, told Reade in February 2020 that its charitable status would be put at risk if it financially supported her because Biden was the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.
TIMES’ UP is operated by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), a 501(c)3 charitable organization, and as such is “restricted in how it can spend its funds, including restrictions that pertain to candidates running for election,” NWLC spokeswoman Maria Patrick told The Intercept in 2020.
TIME’S UP reportedly no longer has control over the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund operations, according to the defense fund’s website, though Tchen serves as president and CEO of both TIME’S UP and the TIME’S UP Foundation.
The TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund’s public relations firm is SKDKnickerbocker, directed by Democratic strategist Anita Dunn. Biden chose Dunn to effectively control his presidential campaign in February 2020, and she only recently stepped down from her role as White House senior advisor on Aug. 12.
Kendra Barkoff Lamy, who leads SKDK’s communications team for the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, formerly served as press secretary to Biden when he was vice president.
SKDK also worked on behalf of the Biden campaign, federal records show, and partner Doug Thornell said in May that the firm was “honored to have played a role in the historic victory of President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.”
Officials at SKDK told the Times in April 2020 that Dunn has personally never worked with the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund and was not told about Reade’s request. Lamy and Dunn did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the DCNF.
Reade publicly accused Biden in March 2020 of kissing her, touching her and penetrating her with his fingers without her consent when she worked for him in 1993. Biden has vigorously and repeatedly denied these allegations.
Her accusations garnered national attention in late April 2020 and early May 2020, but subsequent media reporting on her academic credentials and her turbulent past casted doubts on her credibility.
In a Monday phone interview with the Daily Caller News Foundation, Reade praised the Times report for digging into TIME’S UP and the organization’s conflicting behavior towards #MeToo allegations, though the Biden accuser noted that the Times did not reach out to her for its story.
Reade condemned TIME’S UP for protecting “powerful men while leaving survivors like myself and others vulnerable.”
“They not only suppressed our stories but used their access to power to go after us and discredit us,” she said. “It is the most vile use of donations to retraumatize the very population they were to protect.”
Reade insisted that in addition to Kaplan, Tchen should also resign from her position at TIME’S UP. She also said there should be an audit of the entire organization and its legal defense fund.
“Tina was denying me assistance at the same time as raising funds for the man who sexually assaulted me,” Reade said. “That alone should be grounds for her removal from Times Up. Then add on her blatant pandering to Cuomo and assisting them to smear Lindsay Boylan it is a pattern of misconduct.”
“The only reason Tina is apologizing is because she was caught,” she added.
TIME’S UP Wages War For Christine Blasey Ford
When Christine Blasey Ford came forward in September 2018 and accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school, TIME’S UP called on Kavanaugh to resign, publicly stood by Ford, and urged followers to join a national walkout in support of his accusers.
Ford did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
In September 2018, the organization tweeted a link to a Facebook event co-hosted by a slew of advocacy organizations, including Planned Parenthood Action and the National Women’s Law Center, which operates TIME’S UP. TIME’S UP itself is not listed as a co-host on the event.
“All you need to do is wear black and walk out – of your home, your office, your classroom, wherever you are – and post a picture to your social media with the hashtag #BelieveSurvivors,” the Facebook event said.
TIME’S UP also repeatedly weighed in on the highly contentious Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. After the Senate Judiciary Committee found “no evidence” to corroborate allegations against Kavanaugh and the senate confirmed him to the Supreme Court, TIME’S UP promised to continue fighting back against men abusing their power.
“We live in a country that came to a near standstill as one woman’s testimony grew into the deafening roar of all our stories,” the organization tweeted in October 2018. “We also live in a country where rooms of men have been making decisions about women’s lives for centuries.”
“The tide has turned,” the organization continued. “This chapter in our history book will not be the story of men who believed men, that’s old news. It will be the story of an avalanche of women who spoke truths and seized our power. The Senate doesn’t decide who we are. The Senate doesn’t decide how women are treated in this country. We do. All of us, together. #TIMESUP ”
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Mary Margaret Olohan on August 23, 2021
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