Karen Handel in a Tuesday, August 10, 2010 file photo. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
This morning, Karen Handel resigned as the vice president of public policy of the Susan G. Komen foundation. Handel had spent the last week at the epicenter of the controversy around Komen’s decision to withdraw support for Planned Parenthood and several progressive groups were circulating petitions to call for her dismissal. Handel’s very public resignation letter shows a political acumen and sophisticated grasp of cultural narrative that seems to have eluded Komen generally and their CEO, Nancy Brinker, through this entire debacle.
Here’s an excerpt from the beautifully crafted letter:
What was a thoughtful and thoroughly reviewed decision—one that would have indeed enabled Komen to deliver even greater community impact—has unfortunately been turned into something about politics.This is entirely untrue. This development should sadden us all greatly.
Handel, with an expert turn of word, moves to recast the characters in this ongoing saga that is helping to set the stage for a showdown over women’s choice in the 2012 election.
Handel is well-documented as a leader in pushing for Komen defunding of Planned Parenthood. According to internal e-mails obtained by the Huffington Post, Handel was constantly hyping the threat of a right-wing backlash against the breast cancer foundation for their grant to Planned Parenthood, even though—at best—those threats were sporadic and low level. The Komen funding to Planned Parenthood was restricted and could be used only for breast cancer screening in the clinics. Since most women who can afford to do that screening at their private doctor’s office do, this policy by definition disproportionately affects low-income and young women.
Handel won her crusade to score political points and impose her radical ideology on the organization, and certainly Nancy Brinker deserves blame both for allowing this to happen and for lying about it later on Andrea Mitchell’s show on MSNBC, when she claimed that Handel had no part in the decision. What Handel failed to do, despite her obvious PR prowess, was prepare her sponsoring organization to withstand the ensuing maelstrom. Her letter today—both in the content and her choice to release it—shows that helping Komen through this tough time might not have been her first priority.