Two of the co-founders of Time’s Up, an anti-harassment group created in response to the #MeToo Movement, helped New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s office draft a letter to discredit a woman who accused him of sexual assault, according to a report by the state attorney general.
State attorney general Letitia James issued a 165- page report on Tuesday, the culmination of a months-long investigation into sexual-harassment allegations against the governor. James found that Cuomo sexually harassed eleven women, including current and former state employees, in violation of state and federal law.
The report details how Cuomo and a group of advisers drafted a letter in December 2020 to attack the credibility of Lindsey Boylan, the governor’s former aide who was the first to come forward with an accusation. Boylan said Cuomo sexually harassed her and created a toxic work environment.
“The letter denied the legitimacy of Ms. Boylan’s allegations, impugned her credibility, and attacked her claims as politically motivated (including with theories about connections with supporters of President Trump and a politician with an alleged interest in running for Governor),” James said.
Melissa DeRosa, the governor’s top aide, said that he initially drafted the letter by hand, according to the report, though Cuomo said he did not write it and only worked alongside others in the drafting process.
The report reveals that DeRosa said that she had concerns about the letter and was worried it might backfire. Cuomo then directed her to seek out input from attorney Roberta Kaplan, co-founder of the Time’s Up legal defense fund with CEO Tina Tchen.
Kaplan works as legal counsel for DeRosa.
“According to Ms. DeRosa, Ms. Kaplan read the letter to the head of the advocacy group Times Up [Tchen], and both of them allegedly suggested that, without the statements about Ms. Boylan’s interactions with male colleagues, the letter was fine,” James wrote.
“Ms. DeRosa reported back to the Governor that Ms. Kaplan and the head of Times Up thought the letter was okay with some changes, as did [Cuomo ally Steve] Cohen, but everyone else thought it was a bad idea,” James adds.
A spokesperson for Time’s Up responded to the report in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.
“Before any allegations were made against Governor Cuomo, in 2019, Time’s Up worked with his administration to pass the Time’s Up/NY Safety Agenda. In December 2020, Tina was asked to give her perspective on a public response to Ms. Boylan’s allegations,” a spokesperson said.
“Although Tina made no recommendations as to what he should do, she shared the stance Time’s Up has always taken in these matters,” the spokesperson added. “She was clear that any response coming from the Governor’s office addressing the allegations would be insufficient and unacceptable if it did not acknowledge the experiences of the women who came forward, and that it should in no way shame or discredit the women.”
The letter to discredit Boylan was ultimately not shared publicly after Cuomo’s team struggled to find anyone willing to sign it, according to James.
“Several people whom the Governor’s advisors asked to sign the letter were uncomfortable with what it said about Ms. Boylan,” the report said, adding that some said it was an example of victim-shaming and retaliation.
Meanwhile, Cuomo compared the process of drafting the letter to a habit that former President Abraham Lincoln had of writing a response to an article that he disliked and then throwing it out.
Cuomo testified that “like Lincoln, the writing process was cathartic for him,” according to the report.