With Revelation Of Aiding Cuomo, Roberta Kaplan Resigns As Chairwoman Of Time's Up
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The sexual harassment case against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is rippling outward. Time's Up is an organization created to protect women from sexual harassment and assault at work. And now the chairwoman of the organization's board and co-founder of the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund, Roberta Kaplan, has resigned in the face of criticism over her ties to Cuomo. Rebecca Keegan is covering this story for The Hollywood Reporter and joins us now.
REBECCA KEEGAN: Hi, Ari.
SHAPIRO: What connects Roberta Kaplan to Andrew Cuomo?
KEEGAN: Well, Roberta Kaplan had advised as an attorney a member of Cuomo's staff and, it's alleged in a new report from the New York attorney general, provided some guidance to the governor's office on how to handle sexual harassment allegations.
SHAPIRO: And a group of sexual assault survivors strongly objected to Kaplan's role here. They put out an open letter this morning to the board of Time's Up. What did it say?
KEEGAN: They had a number of issues with Time's Up's relationship with Governor Cuomo. Among the things that this group is asking is that there be a third-party investigation into how Time's Up deals with alleged perpetrators of sexual harassment or sexual assault. They have said that they feel that Time's Up chooses power over helping the people that it was designed to help, and that is sexual assault or sexual harassment victims.
SHAPIRO: Do you think they're going to be satisfied with Roberta Kaplan's resignation, or are they looking for more?
KEEGAN: It seems like this group of people who signed this open letter, which also includes some former Times Up staffers and some people who are current clients working with lawyers at Time's Up - it seems that they want more systemic change at the organization. They're asking for more transparency - for instance, more information on budgets. They are asking for donations from people or companies to be returned if those people or companies are associated with sexual harassment or sexual assault cases.
SHAPIRO: Now, what did Roberta Kaplan say about her reason for resigning?
KEEGAN: Kaplan cited the difficulty in managing her job as an attorney with her role at Time's Up. She said that those two things are apparently incompatible right now.
SHAPIRO: So her resignation letter was not an apology, an admission of wrongdoing, anything along those lines.
KEEGAN: No. Roberta Kaplan did say that one thing that has become clear is that sometimes the powerful people that Time's Up has had to work with in order to get change can become part of these stories of sexual harassment or sexual assault. And that is where it gets tricky for the organization. And she has sort of echoed the calls for greater transparency at the organization.
SHAPIRO: What does this mean more broadly for the organization Time's Up and for the #MeToo movement as a whole?
KEEGAN: Well, I think we're starting to see some of the growing pains of the #MeToo movement and of Time's Up that have followed the kind of promising beginning that happened when the Harvey Weinstein stories first broke. You know, Time's Up was founded in January of 2018 based on, I think, a lot of good intentions from a lot of organizations and a lot of Hollywood donors. However, actually creating an organization that supports victims has proven a lot more difficult. Having that infrastructure, having the ability to link all of these victims with lawyers is a lot more complicated.
There's also been the challenge that some of the people who have donated to the group have had potentially conflicting motivations. Perhaps they're doing it because their own company has been associated with a high-profile sexual harassment case. That has called into question for some of these victims the sort of motivations of Time's Up and its ability to navigate those relationships.
SHAPIRO: I mean, Andrew Cuomo himself was vocal about the rights of women who are accusing sexual harassers and the importance that they be heard even as he was allegedly committing these acts of sexual harassment himself.
KEEGAN: Right. And that's what makes this so complicated. The reason Time's Up had a close relationship with Cuomo, they say, is because they worked with him on some 2019 law in New York state that, in fact, extended the statute of limitations for rape survivors. So that's something that anybody donating to Time's Up would presumably support. At the same time, that meant that they had a very cozy relationship with the governor when he found himself facing allegations of harassment.
SHAPIRO: Rebecca Keegan, senior editor for The Hollywood Reporter, thanks a lot.
KEEGAN: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.