Shonda Rhimes, Jurnee Smollett step down from Time’s Up board

Time's Up said that they are ready for "new leadership" and a "reconstituted board"

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Several members of the Time’s Up board — including producer Shonda Rhimes and actresses Eva Longoria and Jurnee Smollett — are stepping down after the organization’s leadership, including Tina Tchen, former chief executive, and Roberta Kaplan, a licensed attorney who co-founded the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund in 2018, stepped down themselves.

In a New York Attorney General’s investigation on Andrew Cuomo, it was revealed that Kaplan and Tchen had a hand in advising the former governor on a letter used to discredit one of his victims.

Kaplan announced her resignation on Aug. 9, and Tchen announced her resignation on Aug. 26.

Shonda Rhimes
(Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

Time’s Up is a non-profit organization that helps raise money to support victims of sexual assault and harassment. Created in 2018, after the litany of accusations against convicted sex offender Harvey Weinstein, the organization has raised more than $24 million for the cause.

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

“I am especially aware that my position at the helm of TIME’S UP has become a painful and divisive focal point, where those very women and other activists who should be working together to fight for change are instead battling each other in harmful ways. Therefore, it is time for me to resign and continue to work for change in other ways, and to let TIME’S UP engage in the thoughtful and meaningful process I know will occur to move forward,” she continued.

In the wake of Tchen’s resignation, the organization announced Monifa Bandele as the new CEO. Bandele is the former senior advisor for strategy, policy and equity for Moms Rising, an advocacy group for multicultural women, mothers, and families, according to their website. Bandele was named chief operating officer of Time’s Up in Oct. 2020.

Monifah Bandele (TIME’S UP)

“TIME’S UP is ready for new leadership, and we want to move forcefully toward its new iteration,” said the organization in a statement on Saturday.

“We have strong faith in the talent and dedication of our interim CEO Monifa Bandele as a leader. As has been announced, Monifa will be overseeing a comprehensive assessment of the organization, in collaboration with an outside consultant, and the input of our stakeholders: survivors and those who work for survivor justice and gender equity in the workplace and beyond.”

Other members, including Nina Shaw, Hilary Rosen, Katie McGrath, Christy Haubegger and Ana Navarro, are also stepping down.

The #MeToo movement, which was created in 2006 by Tarana Burke, has been the driving force behind the reckoning for many men in power, who use their statuses to coerce and assault women.

Since then, women have used the movement to out their abusers and call for justice, like the at least 11 women who accused former governor Cuomo of inappropriate touching, forced kisses, and disparaging commentary on their personal lives.

The accusations sparked an investigation headed by New York’s Attorney General Letitia James, which resulted in a nearly 170-page report detailing how Cuomo used his position of power to harass women, some of which were state employees.

After a number of people requested that he step down, including President Joe Biden, Cuomo resigned on Aug. 10.

The report, which presents incriminating evidence against several people in Cuomo’s camp, detailed how Cuomo solicited advice from Kaplan in response to a letter from former aide Lindsey Boylan, who accused the former governor of sexual harassment.

Kaplan and Human Rights Campaign leader Alphonso David reviewed the letter Cuomo crafted to discredit Boylan. Although an internal investigation cleared him of wrongdoing, David was asked to consider resigning from his position at HRC, which he refused to do.

After the report revealed Kaplan’s involvement, almost 150 people signed an open letter calling for Kaplan to step down, and expressed their overall disappointment in Time’s Up for appointing individuals that work against the interests of the organization.

“Unfortunately, recent events have made it clear that even our apparent allies in the fight to advance women can turn out to be abusers,” Kaplan wrote in a resignation letter shared in August. “We have felt the raw, personal and profound pain of that betrayal.”

Kaplan had also recently done legal work with Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s former top aide who also resigned after it was revealed that she, too, helped in his endeavors to discredit Boylan.

The organization announced on Saturday that “over the next 30 days” they will be making way for a “new and reconstituted board,” without explicitly stating why the current board was being ousted.

Bendele asked four of the current board members — Colleen DeCourcy, Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, Ashley Judd and Gabrielle Sulzberger — to stay on.

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