(WOMENSENEWS)—Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced its biggest leadership shake-up yet since the controversy over funding to Planned Parenthood erupted in late January.
The organization’s top two leaders – founder and CEO Nancy Brinker, as well as president Liz Thompson – announced their resignations in a statement released on Aug. 8. Thompson, who joined the organization in 2008 and became president in 2010, will leave in September. Brinker is shifting to another role in the nonprofit.
On Jan. 31, the organization faced backlash after a decision to largely end grants to Planned Parenthood. It linked the funding freeze to the federal investigation of the organization, instigated by a Republican member of Congress, which was encouraged by anti-choice activists. After the outcry Komen reversed its decision, but the breast cancer advocacy organization continued to endure the fallout. Local “Race for the Cure” organizers, for example, reported participation rates declined by up to 30 percent this year in some cities, according to the Associated Press.
In addition to the most recent announcement, policy chief Karen Handel, who opposes abortion, left the organization in February, days after Komen reinstated funding, according to the AP. Eventually, another director and two vice presidents also left.
Last week, the group received criticism from an article in the British Medical Journal for misleading advertisements regarding the benefits of mammograms, reported Bloomberg Aug. 5.
The only reference Komen’s statement made to the Planned Parenthood issue came in the last paragraph: “‘Our mission is clear and consistent and will never change, regardless of the controversy earlier this year,’ Brinker said.”
The statement offered unrelated reasons for the leadership changes. It quoted Brinker, who will chair an executive committee focused on “revenue creation, strategy and global growth,” as saying, “I want now to focus on Susan G. Komen’s global mission and raising resources to bring our promise to women all around the world.”
Of the resigning president it said that “Thompson said the time is right for her to pursue other opportunities.” A Komen spokesperson responded to the Associated Press’ questions about the controversy, “I think Liz (Thompson) made clear in her statement that we feel that we’ve moved past that.”
But at least one local affiliate offered a more blunt assessment. The Seattle Times reports that the president of a local Komen affiliate in Puget Sound, Wash., said, “I think it was recognized that there was a need for some changes to be made…It’s a path to recovery. We’ve had a very tough year” and that the controversy “was a distraction that hurt us locally, in terms of our ability to fundraise, and in turn, hurt local women.”
Samantha Kimmey is a writer in Brooklyn, N.Y., covering women and politics this election season.