Just a day after we reported on weekend efforts by Susan G. Komen for the Cure to move away from last weekend’s uproar over its decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, an SGK exec that many say was behind the decision has resigned.
Karen Handel (left) has stepped down from her post as VP for public policy. According to Handel’s resignation letter (obtained by the Associated Press), the organization was on board with the decision at first. She calls the backlash a “gross mischaracterization of the strategy… and her involvement in it” and says that SGK saw the need to distance itself from a controversial association with Planned Parenthood.
Many had called for Handel to leave her post. Recommendations from comms experts and others have also called on SGK to speak with one clear and unified voice. Unfortunately, this news doesn’t achieve that.
An anonymous source tells the AP that Handel pressed for the policy change. SGK hired Handel after she failed to win election to the governorship of Georgia. During the campaign, she was staunchly anti-abortion and anti-Planned Parenthood. She also notoriously retweeted a post stating that it was “just like a pro-abortion group to turn a cancer orgs decision into a political bomb to throw. Cry me a freaking river.”
SGK CEO Nancy Brinker, echoing sentiments in the resignation letter, told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell last week that Handel wasn’t the primary source for the policy.
Based on her gubernatorial campaign and the tweet, it’s not so far-fetched to think that Handel pushed hard for this policy change.
On the other hand, it’s not so incredible to believe that one person couldn’t have exerted that kind of influence.
The point is, we don’t know and even with this resignation, the issue isn’t any more resolved. Instead, we’re focused now on whether the organization will ever be forthright about where this policy came from and why this sort of thing won’t happen again.
The organization needs to rebuild its reputation, which must be based on trust. If the group isn’t speaking clearly, it’s hard to trust it again.
*Update: We just got the following statement from MoveOn.org campaign director Elena Perez —
Karen Handel’s resignation is welcome news to hundreds of thousands of MoveOn members who spoke out against Komen’s decision to let anti-choice extremists get in the way of funding life-saving breast health care for women. Komen should continue to fund Planned Parenthood breast health screenings, and never again let politics come before the fight against breast cancer.
Even with the resignation, a MoveOn spokesperson tells PRNewser there will be a protest outside of SGK’s Dallas headquarters today to demand that the organization continue to fund Planned Parenthood. (The reversal only says that Planned Parenthood can apply for funding.)
Click here to check out MoveOn’s petition.
(Photo: John Bazemore/AP)