Roberta Kaplan, Who Aided Cuomo, Resigns from Time’s Up

The fallout from a damaging report that found Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women widened on Monday when Roberta A. Kaplan, a nationally prominent lawyer with ties to the governor, resigned from Time’s Up, the organization founded by Hollywood women to fight sexual abuse and promote gender equality.

Ms. Kaplan, the chairwoman of Time’s Up and the co-founder of its legal defense fund, was one of several prominent figures whom the report found to be involved in an effort to discredit one of Mr. Cuomo’s alleged victims, and she has continuing legal ties to a former Cuomo aide accused of leading that effort.

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

She said that her work as a practicing lawyer meant that she could not openly answer questions about her involvement with Mr. Cuomo or Melissa DeRosa, the aide to the governor who Ms. Kaplan represented in the attorney general inquiry

Read the letter

Ms. DeRosa, who investigators said had led the effort against Ms. Boylan, announced her resignation from the Cuomo administration on Sunday. She believed the governor no longer had a path to remain in office and she did not want to continue publicly support him, according to two people familiar with her thinking.

The report from the state attorney general’s office found that Ms. Kaplan had reviewed a draft of a disparaging op-ed letter that was aimed at attacking the character of Lindsey Boylan, a former Cuomo aide who was the first to publicly accuse him of sexual harassment.

The op-ed letter was never published. It was part of a broader effort in which Mr. Cuomo and his aides sought counsel from former administration officials including Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest L.G.B.T.Q. political lobbying organization in the country; Tina Tchen, the chief executive of Time’s Up; and the governor’s brother, Chris Cuomo, an anchor on CNN.

All of those figures have come under criticism for their connections to Mr. Cuomo.

The involvement of Mr. David, who previously served as counsel to the governor, has led to calls for his resignation from the Human Rights Campaign. The organization said in a statement on Monday that it had hired a law firm to investigate whether Mr. David’s work on the op-ed aligned with its mission of “fighting for equality and justice for all.”

Ms. Kaplan has come under similar scrutiny given the mission of their organization. A prominent attorney who helped win the legalization of gay marriage, she represented the promise of Time’s Up, founded in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein revelations by leading Hollywood figures such as the actress Reese Witherspoon and the star producer Shonda Rhimes. The concept was that high-profile women would be able to use their connections and influence to toughen protections and advance gender equality.

Understand the Scandals Challenging Gov. Cuomo’s Leadership

Multiple claims of sexual harassment. At least 11 women, including current and former members of his administration, have accused Mr. Cuomo of sexual harassment, unwanted advances or inappropriate behavior. He has refused to resign, and focus has turned to the State Assembly’s ongoing impeachment investigation.

Results of an independent investigation. An independent inquiry, overseen by the New York State attorney general, found that Mr. Cuomo had harassed the women, including current and former government workers, breaking state and federal laws. The report also found that he and aides retaliated against at least one woman who made her complaints public.

Nursing home death controversy. The Cuomo administration is also under fire for undercounting the number of nursing-home deaths caused by Covid-19 in the first half of 2020, a scandal that deepened after a Times investigation found that aides rewrote a health department report to hide the real number.

Efforts to obscure the death toll. Interviews and unearthed documents revealed in April that aides repeatedly overruled state health officials in releasing the true nursing home death toll for months. Several senior health officials have resigned in response to the governor’s overall handling of the pandemic, including the vaccine rollout.

Will Cuomo be impeached? The State Assembly opened an impeachment investigation in March. It has taken on new urgency with the release of the attorney general’s report, and its pace is now expected to pick up. Democrats in the State Legislature and New York’s congressional delegation, as well as President Biden, have called on Mr. Cuomo to resign, saying he has lost the ability to govern.

But the allegations against Mr. Cuomo — an ally of the organization who worked with them to strengthen laws in New York — has called that bargain into question.

On Monday morning, a group of survivors of sexual harassment and assault posted an open letter to board of Time’s Up, saying that the organization had betrayed its ideals. “Time’s Up has abandoned the very people it was supposed to champion,” the letter, which was published on Medium, said. “The board continues to fail to heed the outcry from survivors. Time’s Up is failing all survivors.”

Ms. Kaplan was in a particularly awkward position after the report was released last Tuesday. Ms. DeRosa is represented by Ms. Kaplan’s firm, and Ms. DeRosa testified in the attorney general’s inquiry that Ms. Kaplan was her lawyer. Asked by The New York Times if she had ever counseled Ms. DeRosa beyond the op-ed letter, Ms. Kaplan declined to answer.

“Today is a very sad day,” Ms. Kaplan said in an email to The Times. “I will so miss time spent with this board and our sisterhood. Going forward, I hope they will be able to stick together and continue this important work.”

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