Karen Handel Resigns From Komen

In her own words:

February 7, 2012

The Honorable Nancy Brinker

CEO, Susan G. Komen for the Cure                                                                   VIA EMAIL

5005 LBJ Freeway, Suite 250

Dallas, Texas 75244

Dear Ambassador Brinker:

Susan G. Komen for the Cure has been the recognized leader for more 30 years in the fight against breast cancer here in the US – and increasingly around the world.

As you know, I have always kept Komen’s mission and the women we serve as my highest priority – as they have been for the entire organization, the Komen Affiliates, our many supporters and donors, and the entire community of breast cancer survivors.  I have carried out my responsibilities faithfully and in line with the Board’s objectives and the direction provided by you and Liz.

We can all agree that this is a challenging and deeply unsettling situation for all involved in the fight against breast cancer.   However, Komen’s decision to change its granting strategy and exit the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood and its grants was fully vetted by every appropriate level within the organization.  At the November Board meeting, the Board received a detailed review of the new model and related criteria. As you will recall, the Board specifically discussed various issues, including the need to protect our mission by ensuring we were not distracted or negatively affected by any other organization’s real or perceived challenges.   No objections were made to moving forward.

I am deeply disappointed by the gross mischaracterizations of the strategy, its rationale, and my involvement in it.  I openly acknowledge my role in the matter and continue to believe our decision was the best one for Komen’s future and the women we serve.  However, the decision to update our granting model was made before I joined Komen, and the controversy related to Planned Parenthood has long been a concern to the organization.  Neither the decision nor the changes themselves were based on anyone’s political beliefs or ideology.  Rather, both were based on Komen’s mission and how to better serve women, as well as a realization of the need to distance Komen from controversy.  I believe that Komen, like any other nonprofit organization, has the right and the responsibility to set criteria and highest standards for how and to whom it grants.

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.

Just as Komen’s best interests and the fight against breast cancer have always been foremost in every aspect of my work, so too are these my priorities in coming to the decision to resign effective immediately.  While I appreciate your raising a possible severance package, I respectfully decline.  It is my most sincere hope that Komen is allowed to now refocus its attention and energies on its mission.


Komen’s Response:


WASHINGTON, D.C. – February 7, 2012 – “Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s mission is the same today as it was the day of its founding: to find a cure and eradicate breast cancer.

“We owe no less to our partners, supporters and, above all, the millions of people who have been and continue to be impacted by this life-threatening disease. We have made mistakes in how we have handled recent decisions and take full accountability for what has resulted, but we cannot take our eye off the ball when it comes to our mission. To do this effectively, we must learn from what we’ve done right, what we’ve done wrong and achieve our goal for the millions of women who rely on us. The stakes are simply too high and providing hope for a cure must drive our efforts.

“Today I accepted the resignation of Karen Handel, who has served as Senior Vice President for Policy since April 2011. I have known Karen for many years, and we both share a common commitment to our organization’s lifelong mission, which must always remain our sole focus. I wish her the best in future endeavors.”



  1. Three Jack says:

    Sorry to see this, best wishes to my friend Karen who once again showed class where others show something else that rhymes with class.

  2. jiminga says:

    It’s good to see somebody actually has the courage of her convictions. If only there were more like her.

    • Scott65 says:

      If only…then I guess more women…oh sorry, poor women, would die because they didn’t have access to basic breast cancer screenings. I used to have some respect for Karen, but she took something that should never be politicized and has single handedly brought down the entire Komen organization, and for that, she cannot be forgiven. They probably will only collect 25% of what they were taking in…if they survive at all. Only 8 cents of your Komen dollar actually goes to treatment and research…most of it goes to awareness. Their admin costs are well above average, and none of this would have become fodder for fox/msnbc had Karen not so royally screwed up

  3. chamblee54 says:

    Karen Handel gave an interview to Northside Woman , shortly after starting The Handel Strategy Group. There was a fun quote: “What I know is I will be prudent and smart about my career. I will make sure the things I have engaged in are not things that will present a difficulty for me later”.

  4. Andre says:

    Charlie, if you will indulge another request, could you close comments on this thread?

    I ask, not with the intent to shut down deliberative debate, but due to the fact that many folks on this site know both Karen Handel and her husband on a personal level.

    It may be difficult for the folks who know Karen Handel personally to remain civil while others excoriate her based on the caricature being portrayed in the media.

    So, Charlie, to maintain civility, just shut down this thread.

    • Three Jack says:

      Two negative comments out of 13 and you want to end the discussion? Did you read the previous threads regarding this matter, much more excoriating going on there.

    • CobbGOPer says:

      She didn’t die or have something terrible happen (which seems to be the criteria for shutting down comments here at the Pundit), so I think the thread should remain open.

      P.S. – I’m one of those people who knows Karen personally.

    • LoyaltyIsMyHonor says:


      This is a political blog, everyone knows someone personally. And everyone in politics knows that you have to be thick-skinned.

      That said, I see no reason why anyone would attack her husband.

  5. Spacey G says:

    After long and careful thought on the matter, about :20 sec, I can’t help but agree with Andre. Tear down this blog post commenting now, Mr. Charlie.

  6. Doug Deal says:

    One of the rarest things in this world is a spine. Karen has one, SGK does not have even have a single vertebrae among them.

    Over the last couple of years, she has been bashed by people from the left and right because of her propensity to take a stand. This is not a failing on her part, it is her strength.

  7. AMB says:

    I don’t care if she wants to take a stand. She can stand on principle or on a Metropolitan Parkway corner. What she cannot do is take over other women’s lives and restrict their choices and their freedoms.

    • Doug Deal says:

      Yeah, because that is precisely what she did. She’s just like Hitler.

      You need to get out in the world and realize that there is more to “women’s rights” than killing fetuses, and there is something troubling and perverse about how much joy it brings many on the left.

      • chamblee54 says:

        “killing fetuses, and there is something troubling and perverse about how much joy it brings many on the left.”
        Do you have a link for that?
        I don’t know anyone who is happy about abortion. It is a troubling issue. This type of toxic rhetoric makes it much worse. The grandstanding and pandering by the anti choice crowd is one reason why this issue cannot be resolved.
        Remember, Karen Handel was not anti abortion enough to please the Georgia Right to Life organization when she ran for Governor.

        • Doug Deal says:

          I stay out of the abortion debate because it is populated by an extremley vocal minority (albeit a sizeable one) of crazies on both sides. I will, however, criticize both sides on their extreme behavior from time to time.

          Regardless of what you believe, there is a certain amount of excess zeal in the actions of members of organizations like Planned Parenthood, NARAL and a number of other that cannot be explanined merely by “protecting a woman’s right to choose” as they are remarkably silent on the issue of a woman having the right to choose to say own a gun. Also, where is the outrage at the vicious attacks on women who chose to be conservative?

          Of course there is none, as it is about one thing, sticking it in the eye of the people you oppose and since abortion is the means to that end, it is championed fervently.

    • Three Jack says:

      Karen Handel, (fe)male chauvinist pig!

      Come on AMB, you really want to try and hit Karen as someone motivated by restricting womens rights? Not really a great tack considering all that she has accomplished in the good ol boy dominated world of Georgia politics.

      • Dave Bearse says:

        Of what accomplishments do you speak?

        Served as SoS and ran for Governor? “Been there, done that” as Cathy Cox could say.

  8. Charlie says:

    The general rule is that you remain civil or you’re gone. That will apply here as well. In the mean time, I see no reason to close the thread.

  9. James Fannin says:

    People who donate money to SGK to fight breast cancer are more often than not surprised to learn a portion of their donations ends up in the hands of the America’s largest abortion provider. Karen was right to argue that doing so was both dishonest and contrary to Komen’s mission. They should have backed her -and should have done what was right rather than cave – they didn’t and Karen resigned – and she should have.

    Karen Handel lost the race for Governor by only 2400 votes due in no small part to the the very nasty, loud and over-the-top opposition that came from Georgia Right to Life. How ironic that she has now left Komen as a result of the same kind of crazy, nasty rhetoric you hear coming from the abortion advocates. My guess is if GTRL and Planned Parenthood are both hounding you – you are probably doing something right. Welcome home Karen.

    • Dave Bearse says:

      People who donate to Komen, which grants 0.3% of its grants to an organization that spends 3% of its money, obtained elsewhere, on abortion services, wukk because of the inept handling of this matter learn all kinds of things about Komen that may turn them off.

      Brinker being paid $400,000+ a year, which by no means is extraordinary for her role in an organization as large a Komen, will turn off people.

      Governance issues. Fraction of donations going to the core mission. Nothing extraordinary, but there are details that will turn people off.

      GRTL is simply applying the same treatment to Handel it applied to Komen. No matter whatever support, however tiny, no matter when, connected to anything connected to abortion, cannot be tolerated.

  10. Mike Stucka says:

    If you’re interested in abortion — pro-choice or pro-life, either way — I’d strongly recommend Cynthia Gorney’s “Articles of Faith.” It’s a fascinating book about the growing inability of both sides to come to agreement or treat each other civilly.

    I’ve read the book several times but haven’t figured out how the author actually feels about the subject. Fascinating work.

  11. Had I known that the Komen Foundation “for the cure” contributed to Planned Parenthood, I would have redirected my donations to some other organization. I understand first hand the importance of early detection of breast cancer. My mother passed away from it 10 years ago this month. I want to see a cure found for it in my lifetime for my wife and my daughter’s sake. I’m not sure that contributing to Planned Parenthood helps to accomplish that goal.

    • Scott65 says:

      Sorry about your loss, and quite honestly its everyone’s loss if breast cancer continues to kill. In the same vein, however, being poor should not be a reason to deny women preventative health screenings. As for the A word…its pointless to even discuss it because people cant behave rationally when they do. There’s a reason its banned from Boortz’s show

      • “being poor should not be a reason to deny women preventative health screenings”

        So who pays for it? Should the doctor be required to expend a portion of their life and money to ensure that poor women have access to these screenings? Should we enact another tax to ensure that everyone contributes equally? I have to totally disagree with you here. I see getting screenings as being very important in the early detection of breast cancer. But “poor” people in this country have cell phones, satellite / cable fed big screen tvs and partake of such items as cigarettes and alcohol. If someone has enough money to buy even a $4 pack of cigarettes a week, they have the money to spend on a mammogram instead.

  12. saltycracker says:

    This gut-wrenching ordeal was handled as it should be between the involved charities, its people and their reaction to public opinions. Thankfully, it was not influenced by the courts or government entitites as too many wish the issue of abortion to be.

    There are some personal choices that should not be dictated by governments and laws but society.

    Personally, I am pro-life but every woman in my family is pro-choice. The birth/abort choice is such that it must be individual and the education of, including family and sex education, put in the domain of families, churches, charities and non-profits according to personal choice.

    This would involve a lot of directional changes in health services and public schools, starting with a legal definition of “person” and codification of crimes against persons or its various stages.

  13. seekingtounderstand says:

    How about freedom to decided what is right for individuals who are pregnant but have none of our government dollars or donations going to aborting babies? De-politicize it. Its legal but a private matter. Too much money involved now I guess.
    Truth: If the pro-life group really wanted to transform the publics opinion they could do so in short order. How? They simply show the video called “Silent Scream”. Its been around for 25 years. It shows a fetus during a abortion. The tiny being or what ever you call it actually screams and tries its best to get away from the medical instrument that is pulling it apart piece by piece before sucking it out into the trash. Once you actually see what happens to a fetus, you never forget. As a country we have more compassion for abandon puppies than finding a solution for unwanted babies. If people really understand what abortion does to the fetus……politicans couldn’t use it to divide.

    • Harry says:

      It’s amazing how Obama, Komen and the Ninth Circuit over the past few days have managed to alienate the social conservative electorate. It may put Santorum in the white house.

      • bowersville says:

        I don’t know about putting Santorum in the White House but he certainly surged and has new life in his campaign this morning. Santorum took MO, CO and MN. I know about the no delegate situations but still, the caucus votes and the PPP votes mean a change in preference again.

    • saltycracker says:


      Suely you know that people understand biology. The best outcome you could get would be prior anesthetizing. This issue needs to stay in the personal and societal area and not involve public funds and laws. There are complicated exceptions involving personal crimes, genetics and cloning.

  14. Doug Grammer says:

    Personally, I commend Karen for resigning and not taking a severance package. SGK is a great organization with a great cause. Planned parenthood doing breast screenings is a great…..hold up….

    When you go to http://www.plannedparenthood.org/ …on the home page, it says breast cancer screenings save lives. I will agree with that. Under health info and services drop down, after locations, the next word is ABORTION. They say “Abortion is a safe and legal way to end pregnancy.” On behalf of the child, I will say that a safer way to end pregnancy is to give birth. Just because an organization does or supports something that is a public good, such as providing breast cancer screenings, that does not make up for other things it does.

    Planned parenthood is solidly about providing abortions.

    If the KKK did breast cancer screenings and only 5 to 10% of what it focused on was bigotry, do you think our tax dollars should fund it? Do you think SKG should fund it?

    SKG was on the right track and messed up. SGK could have raised a lot more money had it stuck to its guns and ended its funding for planned parenthood.

  15. Cassandra says:

    This excellent comment is just a little bit pregnant:

    “If the KKK did breast cancer screenings and only 5 to 10% of what it focused on was bigotry, do you think our tax dollars should fund it?”

  16. Mike Stucka says:

    Is it just me, or is no one discussing the subterfuge in here? Her resignation letter makes it clear the policy change was all about ousting Planned Parenthood specifically. That makes the cover story about investigations just a lie.

    I think the initial visceral reaction of Planned Parenthood supporters was in part driven by a suspicion that they were being lied to … which is, apparently, a fact. The dishonesty drove much of the initial pushback.

    Oddly, now, Komen wants to keep a policy involving investigations, and participants in the lie are being raised up as a person acting on a perfect moral path.

    I may be missing something here, but I remain confused.

  17. It’s ridiculous that Karen got thrown under the bus because of this. Komen’s response to the entire matter was disastrous and will very likely be used as a case study in PR grad school classes for how not to reply to a nonprofit crisis. This debacle, paired with the President’s power move on the Catholic Church, made for a very bad week for the pro-life crowd.

    I will say that Komen won’t be receiving another penny or hour’s worth of time from my wife or I until they disentangle themselves from Planned Parenthood – who, oh by the way, doesn’t offer mammograms.

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