Time’s Up Chairwoman Roberta Kaplan resigned from the organization that grew out of the #MeToo movement on Monday amid criticism for her role in an effort to undermine the sexual harassment allegations of one of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s accusers.
Kaplan submitted a resignation letter to the gender-equality group, which was first reported by The New York Times early Monday, that stated her work as a “practicing lawyer” and ethical duties to loyalty and confidentiality meant that she couldn’t freely answer questions about her involvement with the embattled governor or his onetime top aide Melissa DeRosa, whom she represented in the state attorney general inquiry.
Her resignation comes just a day after DeRosa, who investigators said oversaw an effort to discredit Lindsey Boylan, announced her resignation from the Cuomo administration.
“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 her resignation letter to Vice Chair Nina Shaw. “We have felt the raw, personal and profound pain of that betrayal.”
“I therefore have reluctantly come to the conclusion that an active litigation practice is no longer compatible with serving on the Board at Time’s Up at this time and I hereby resign,” Kaplan said.
According to the 168-page report, DeRosa allegedly told investigators that Kaplan had conferred with the head of Time’s Up and that with some adjustments, she was fine with the letter aimed at Boylan.
The wave of resignations comes after a report from the New York Attorney General’s Office last week that found that Cuomo had sexually harassed at least 11 women and violated state and federal law.
Investigators said Kaplan, who co-founded the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, had been involved with reviewing the draft of an op-ed letter that was never published which sought to discredit Boylan, the former state economic adviser who was the first to come forward with public accusations of sexual harassment against the three-term Democrat.
Once lauded as a hero for successfully arguing before the Supreme Court to overturn the federal Defense Marriage Act in 2013, Kaplan was critical to the fight for same-sex marriage rights.
Her history providing counsel in sexual misconduct lawsuits after establishing her own firm, Kaplan Heckler & Fink, in 2017 has been more muddled.
She earned street cred as an anti-Trump progressive strongwoman, counting among her clients E. Jean Carroll, the outspoken advice columnist who sued Trump for defamation in New York state court after alleging that he raped her 25 years ago. Kaplan also represents Mary Trump in her tax suit against the former president and his siblings.
But Kaplan has also defended the likes of Goldman Sachs in a suit filed by a former in-house lawyer, Marla Crawford, who alleged she was fired in retaliation for speaking up about how other women were sexually harassed by leaders of the investment bank’s legal department.
In a statement Monday, Time’s Up said that it agreed with Kaplan’s decision to step down and that it would reflect internally about how some of its work had bred mistrust among survivors of sexual harassment.
“We hold ourselves accountable. The events of the last week have made it clear that our process should be evaluated and we intend to do just that,” the organization said.
The revelation of Kaplan’s resignation also follows suggestions earlier this year from Time’s Up insiders that the organization chaired by Kaplan, which had played a part in catapulting the #MeToo movement to center stage, had fallen off course.
In February, a lawsuit accusing one of Time’s Up’s most prominent members of brushing off an allegation of sexual misconduct roiled the organization and set off a wave of departures from more than a dozen of the group’s founding members.
In an interview with The Daily Beast in April, Time’s Up CEO Tina Tchen rebuffed claims that in a closed-door meeting with employees she had trashed the filmmakers behind On the Record, a documentary about women who were abused by record executive Russell Simmons. Tchen added that she had not played a part in any effort to undercut the film’s success.
In an open letter posted to Medium on Monday shortly after Kaplan’s letter was made public, a group including sexual-misconduct survivors and some Time’s Up employees declared the organization had lost its way.
“TIME’S UP has abandoned the very people it was supposed to champion,” the letter, which has 40 signatures, said. “The board continues to fail to heed the outcry from survivors. TIME’S UP is failing all survivors.”
The letter also demanded that the group conduct a third-party investigation into how board members and staffers “have been approached by, offered advice to, or are representing perpetrators of harm.”