Anti-sex abuse movement Time’s Up has been accused of acting as a mouthpiece for outgoing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and removing a post about a sexual assault survivor who was a vocal Cuomo critic on his orders.
The allegations come days after attorney Roberta Kaplan resigned as chairwoman of Time’s Up, telling the board that her work there was ‘no longer compatible’ with her job as a private lawyer. One former staffer said of the organization: ‘It was patriarchy in a dress.’
Workers at Times’s up said they were blasted by bosses after sharing New York State Senator Alessandra Biaggi’s story on social media. Biaggi is a sexual assault survivor, and a vocal critic of Cuomo.
Earlier this month, she said she was one of the witnesses interviewed by New York State Attorney General Letitia James into James’ sexual harassment probe into Cuomo, but did not comment further.
Workers say they were forced to remove an image of Biaggi after Cuomo’s office called up to complain about her being featured so prominently on a site with close ties to the outgoing New York State Governor.
Staff say the Biaggi incident meant they were unsurprised at Time’s Up’s muted response to sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo when they first emerged in December 2020.
Biaggi subsequently discovered what had happened, and blasted Time’s Up’s ‘inadequate’ response to the drama.
Kaplan helped New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo review a letter in which he tried to discredit accuser Lindsey Boylan, according to a report by New York Attorney General Letitia James that led to the governor’s resignation last week.
‘According to [Cuomo secretary Melissa] DeRosa, Ms. Kaplan read the letter to the head of the advocacy group Times Up, and both of them allegedly suggested that, without the statements about Ms. Boylan’s interactions with male colleagues, the letter was fine,’ the report said.
Time’s Up Chairwoman Roberta Kaplan resigned last week after it was revealed that she helped Gov. Andrew Cuomo review a letter meant to discredit one of his accusers
Time’s Up staffers denounced a workplace with no clear direction that operates at the whims of the famous and powerful friends of its leaders.
‘There was no thoughtful strategy,’ one former staffer told the Daily Beast. ‘It was just on to the next shiniest thing.’
The group had ‘no playbook or plan for what to do when a powerful Democrat was accused,’ one source said, ‘because they were so terrified of burning bridges with powerful people.’
That’s why Time’s Up would often promote Gov. Cuomo’s work, even if it seemed to have little to do with the group’s mission, according to employees.
In January 2020, the group posted about Cuomo’s work on a New York version of the Equal Rights Amendment, even though Time’s Up staff was told to stay away from the issue.
Multiple staffers have accused Time’s Up of working on behalf of high-profile friends like Gov. Cuomo, though CEO Tina Tchen has been adamant that he played no role in their agenda
Employees were also forced to remove an image of New York state Senator Alessandra Biaggi, a sexual assault survivor and vocal critic of Gov. Cuomo, from their website.
In an email to the Daily Beast, Tchen, the Time’s Up CEO, wrote: ‘To say it clearly, Cuomo WAS NOT deciding our agenda.’
She also said that the group did not respond to Boylan’s allegations against Cuomo because they ‘thought it important to uplift stories only after they had already been covered and investigated.’
But that was just one instance in which Time’s Up kowtowed to its elite circle, its former employees say.
The group was founded in 2018 as a legal defense fund and advocacy group focused on workplace sexual harassment, linked to the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment.
It secured donations of up to $13 million from entertainment industry giants like Oprah Winfrey, Shonda Rhimes, Meryl Streep and Reese Witherspoon along with high-powered executives, lawyers and agents, according to The New York Times.
Multiple employees told The Daily Beast that when Gayle King was being harassed online, they were forced to drop their work on major projects to come to the aid of the CBS This Morning host after one of her friends called the organization.
They released a statement, launched a petition, and posted on social media platforms about the early 2020 controversy, where King brought up sexual harassment allegations against recently-deceased NBA player Kobe Bryant during an interview shortly after his death.
Staffers accused Time’s Up leaders of directing them to drop everything and post on social media in favor of Gayle King when the CBS host found herself in hot water in 2020
‘It felt so out of touch and awkward and not relevant, but because we had gotten that call it was the top priority for the day,’ one former staffer said, claiming that the backlash King had received was peripheral to the work Time’s Up was trying to do.
‘Everyone was like, “Why is this a priority amidst all the other stuff we’re campaigning around?”‘
Time’s Up also stood by King’s best friend, Oprah Winfrey, when the mogul pulled out of a film about sexual harassment allegations against music producer Russell Simmons at the last minute.
‘[Time’s Up CEO] Tina Tchen said to me on the phone the night Oprah backed out of the film, “The filmmakers are bad people” and when I disagreed with her she said, “You have to trust me on this,'” one survivor featured in the film previously told The Daily Beast.
‘She implied that Time’s Up would support me as a survivor, but only if I backed away from the film.’
One staffer posited that ‘the voice of a board member or an A-list celebrity with a big Instagram following is always going to be listened to first over the needs of a survivor.’
Another said: ‘This organization has not even been around for four years. I don’t think it’s worth turning around.’