NEW YORK (AP) – The leader of Time’s Up, the #MeToo-era organization founded by Hollywood women to fight sexual harassment, stepped down under fire Monday for advising Governor Andrew Cuomo’s government behind the scenes to discredit one of Cuomo’s accusers.
Time’s Up said in a tweet that it agreed with Roberta Kaplan that resigning as chairman of the group’s board of directors was “the right and appropriate thing”.
A New York Attorney General’s report last week concluded that Cuomo had sexually molested 11 women. The allegations have put the Democrat’s career in extreme danger, threatening him with impeachment and criminal charges.
Kaplan, a women’s rights attorney who has her own law firm, advised the government last winter when Cuomo was hit by the first of the harassment allegations made by former economic development adviser Lindsey Boylan.
Both Kaplan and Alphonso David, head of the human rights campaign, were questioned about a letter written by the Cuomo government attacking Boylan’s credibility. Kaplan and David agreed to review the letter.
According to the attorney general’s report, Kaplan informed the administration that the letter was okay with some adjustments. David, a former Cuomo attorney, declined to sign the letter but agreed to contact other people to see if they would. However, other advisors thought this was a bad idea, and the letter never got widespread distribution.
Kaplan’s role in advising the Cuomo government baffled sexual assault victims and others. Several former Time’s Up supporters sent an open letter Monday calling for an investigation into which they accused the organization’s leaders of “allying themselves with the perpetrators at the survivors’ expense.”
“The time is up, should be ashamed,” said the letter.
Activist Alison Turkos, who organized the letter, said sexual assault victims feel abandoned by alleged lawyers who secretly worked for the other side.
“How do you tell survivors: ‘We are a safe place for you, come to us’, but behind closed doors you give the perpetrators a playbook on how to cover up your victims and get revenge on them?” Asked Turkos, whose Letter has been signed by dozens of self-proclaimed victims, including Cuomo prosecutor Charlotte Bennett.
In her resignation letter, Kaplan said she was “reluctant to conclude that active legal practice is no longer compatible” with serving on Time’s Up’s board of directors.
She added, “Unfortunately, recent events have made it clear that even our seeming allies in the struggle to promote women may turn out to be abusers” – a reference to Cuomo’s public support for the #MeToo movement, which includes his signing of one comprehensive new protection against sexual harassment in 2019.
In addition to advising the Cuomo administration, Kaplan had recently done legal work for Melissa DeRosa, a top advisor to Cuomo who resigned Sunday after the Attorney General’s report portrayed her as a central role in efforts to retaliate against Boylan had.
Meanwhile, the human rights campaign announced that it was launching an investigation into the “appropriateness” of David’s actions.
David said in a statement Monday that he welcomed this review amid what he said “several inaccuracies (that were) floating around”. He said he only learned of the governor’s alleged wrongdoing from the attorney general’s report and said he had neither signed nor circulated the letter. He admitted that he would “provide an electronic copy of an advisory memo on a government employee” after leaving the government, but said he was required by law to do so.
“I asked for his resignation and I repeat that appeal today,” he said of Cuomo.
Kaplan co-founded the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund in 2018, which helps women who have faced sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
In 2013, she successfully represented Edith Windsor in the US Supreme Court and won the case that repealed laws against gay marriage in the US. She later published a book on the case, “Then Comes Marriage”.
Kaplan also represents writer E. Jean Carroll, who filed a defamation lawsuit against Donald Trump in 2019 for alleging the former president raped her in a department store locker room in the 1990s. Trump rejects Carroll’s allegations.
Carroll supported Kaplan in a tweet on Monday.
“Robbie Kaplan is my lawyer and will always be my lawyer. It overturned DOMA, which ushered in gay rights. She is fighting the Nazis in Charlottesville. She leads the fight for gender equality in women’s sport. She’s the best lawyer in America !! ” She wrote.
Associated Press reporter Maryclaire Dale contributed to this Philadelphia report.
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