Some of the nation’s top AIDS activists are calling for designer Kenneth Cole’s ouster as leader of world-famous AIDS research charity amfAR because of a controversial deal he made with Harvey Weinstein.
More than 60 people — including Olympic diver Greg Louganis, playwright Larry Kramer and former amfAR board member Peter Staley — signed an open letter that was obtained by NBC News on Monday. They are asking for Cole to resign or be replaced as amfAR board chairman, and for New York’s top prosecutor to step in if it doesn’t happen.
The letter takes aim at an arrangement by Cole and Weinstein to split the proceeds of some charity auction items between amfAR and a theater where a show produced by Weinstein had been staged. The agreement, which was made before a sexual misconduct scandal engulfed Weinstein, is being investigated by federal authorities and caused a bitter rift on amfAR’s board.
“Kenneth has made valuable contributions to amfAR over the years. But this controversy and the ensuing extraordinary divisions within amfAR’s board make it essential to turn the page and let amfAR’s staff focus solely on its mission,” Staley, a longtime AIDS activist, said in a statement.
Kramer told NBC News that he is worried “all this mess with Weinstein” will hurt amfAR.