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Hollywood group born during #MeToo faces criticism it didn’t live up to ideals

Revelation that Time’s Up Foundation aided Cuomo in scandal among flashpoints cited by disillusioned ex-staffers. Hollywood bigwigs remain mum.

Updated: August 20, 2021 - 11:04pm

A blockbuster New York Times’ expose did more than end movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s career four years ago. It coaxed Hollywood starlets to endorse a nonprofit designed to protect women from future Weinsteins in and out of show business.

The Time’s Up Foundation, supported by everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Oscar winner Brie Larson, vowed to defend women against the predators among us.

Now, that organization is being criticized by former staffers for not living up to its ideals, and advising disgraced New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Yet the starlets who rallied behind Time’s Up, especially stars who joined the group’s advisory boards, are mostly silent about the group and its growing number of critics.

The recent open letter from disgruntled ex-staffers, followed up by a blistering Daily Beast article, reveal a deep distrust in the group by those who initially supported it.

The letter alleges Time’s Up chose the power generated from its political connections over helping survivors of sexual harassment and worse. Activist Alison Turkos spearheaded the open letter, one co-signed by Cuomo accuser Charlotte Bennett.

“How are you telling survivors, ‘We’re a safe space for you, come to us,’ but behind closed doors you are handing abusers a playbook of how to cover up and retaliate against your victims?” Turkos wrote.

One ex-staffer told The Daily Beast the group was merely the “patriarchy with a dress on.”

The same news outlet reported in March that the organization asked volunteers to sign a secrecy pledge “limiting their ability to speak freely about the organization—including a pledge not to disparage the group, its employees, or its ‘community members.’”

The most recent allegation against the group concerns its ties to Cuomo, who resigned from his position Aug. 10 following a report he had sexually harassed 11 women.

Former board chair Roberta Kaplan and group CEO Tina Tchen allegedly helped Cuomo craft his response to serial sexual harassment allegations last year. The New York state attorney general’s office said the duo “signed off on a letter” in which Cuomo tried to discredit one of his accusers.

The foundation did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the allegations.

Just the News reached out to eight celebrities who belong to either Time’s Up Governing Board of Directors or the Global Leadership Board for a response to these allegations: Oprah Winfrey. Brie Larson. Rosanne Arquette. Natalie Portman. America Ferrera. Shonda Rhimes. Ashley Judd. Eva. Longoria.

The only response came from Arquette’s representative, who referred JTN to the actress’s Tweet on the subject.

"Times up initially was funded by powerful Hollywood men. It changed through the years and the legal defense fund has done some extraordinary work. this shake up is good to move forward in why it was started in the fist (sic) place on the backs of survivors pain now help survivors."

Just the News also reached out to The Geena Davis Institute, founded to combat gender discrimination in Hollywood, and Women in Film to see if they had any reaction to the criticisms leveled at Time’s Up. Neither responded.

The Time’s Up organization started in December 2017 following a massive GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign that hauled in $24 million, including $500,000 each from Sandra Bullock, Meryl Streep, Rhimes and Jennifer Aniston.

This isn’t the first crisis facing Time’s Up, though. The group’s first CEO, Lisa Borders, stepped down in 2019 due to sexual misconduct accusations leveled against her son, Garry Bowden, Jr., who denied being inappropriate with his accuser.

A year later, the group’s financial portrait drew sizable backlash. Critics pored over its fiscal record, noting the group raised $3.6 million in 2018 but funneled only $312,001 toward those claiming they had been sexually harassed. The bulk of that money, $1.4 million went to the group members’ salaries, according to a report in the New York Post.

“The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund has provided legal resources about sex harassment at work to over 5,000 people, three-quarters of whom identify as low-paid workers,” a Time’s Up spokeswoman told The New York Post at the time, adding the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund had committed $11 million dollars to help survivors.

Last year, Time’s Up opted not to throw its weight behind Tara Reade, the former staffer for then-Sen. Joe Biden. Reade claims Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993.

Reade contacted Time’s Up for support but was told the group couldn’t help, citing Biden’s presidential run and its nonprofit status.

Meanwhile, Time’s Up repeatedly weighed in on other matters not directly related to its core mission, like accusations the Golden Globes discriminated against journalists of color over the years. The group said NBC’s decision not to broadcast the group’s annual gala in 2022 was “a defining moment for Hollywood.”

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