Ex-Michelle Obama Chief of Staff Tina Tchen Named Time's Up CEO

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Tina Tchen

The lawyer, who co-founded the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund, has decades of experience working to address issues of sexual harassment and gender inequity and diversity in the workplace. She succeeds former CEO Lisa Borders, who resigned after sexual misconduct allegations were made against her son.

Michelle Obama's former chief of staff Tina Tchen is the new president and CEO of Time's Up, it was announced Monday.

Tchen, co-founder of the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund and a lawyer herself, succeeds former Time's Up CEO and president Lisa Borders, who resigned in February after sexual misconduct allegations were made against her son. The former WNBA president had only spent four months atop the organization. Tchen will start as president and CEO on Nov. 1

COO Rebecca Goldman had served as interim CEO for Time's Up, and will will return to her COO role.

Currently an attorney in Buckley LLP's workplace culture practice, advising organizations on gender inequity, sexual harassment and diversity in the workplace, Tchen serves on numerous strategic advisory boards and is co-chair with former Obama staffer Valerie Jarrett of the United State of Women, which amplifies the work of groups throughout the country working to combat gender inequality. During her time in the White House, Tchen served as executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, spearheading the first White House Summit on Working Families and helped form the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.

Tchen's appointment was announced in the New York Times on Monday and she appeared on CBS This Morning for her first TV interview as head of the organization.

"I've been a single working mom my entire career, working in places like law firms and the White House," she said on CBS This Morning. "So I've seen the issues that women confront in workplaces. And I've been working on gender equity issues for over three decades."

The Times said Tchen would continue to be based in Chicago where Time's Up would open an office.

Time's Up also announced Monday that it would launch a new innovation center, The Time's Up Impact Lab, which will pioneer research aimed at addressing sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination, inequality and injustice in public policy, private sector and cultural change.

Tchen was appointed in March of 2018 to head up the Recording Academy's Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, following then Recording Academy president and CEO Neil Portnow's controversial comments during that year's Grammy Awards about female artists needing to "step up."

Tchen received praise from entertainment industry activists and principal Time's Up founders Shonda Rhimes, Meryl Streep, Eva Longoria and Katie McGrath in the official announcement about her appointment as Time's Up CEO. Michelle Obama and founder of the #MeToo movement Tarana Burke also tweeted their congratulations to Tchen.

But Tchen's not without controversy herself. In the days after Jussie Smollett said he was attacked in a hate crime earlier this year, Tchen reached out to Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx and connected her with a relative of the actor, according to texts and emails obtained by The Chicago Sun-Times

After Tchen and Foxx communicated, the State's Attorney told Tchen that she had reached out to Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson to turn the investigation over to the FBI. 

When Smollett was later charged with making a false police report about the incident, now widely believed to have been a hoax, Foxx recused herself from the actor's prosecution because she'd spoken with members of his family.

Tchen sought to clarify her involvement in the Smollett scandal in March after felony charges that Smollett faked the hate crime against himself were dropped, saying that her communications with Foxx were not meant to influence the outcome of the case.

“I know members of the Smollett family based on prior work together,” Tchen said in a statement in March. “Shortly after Mr. Smollett reported he was attacked, as a family friend, I contacted Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who I also know from prior work together. My sole activity was to put the chief prosecutor in the case in touch with an alleged victim’s family who had concerns about how the investigation was being characterized in public.”

Watch her CBS This Morning interview below.