Komen’s Nancy Brinker says she made mistakes in Planned Parenthood case

In her first public statement since her organization reversed a decision to stop donating to Planned Parenthood, Nancy Brinker, the … Continued

In her first public statement since her organization reversed a decision to stop donating to Planned Parenthood, Nancy Brinker, the founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, said that “I made some

Haraz N. Ghanbari


Nancy Brinker, founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure

mistakes” in the case, which swelled into a massive controversy. Brinker, in a letter to Washington Post columnist Sally Quinn, also noted that many commentators had blamed “culture wars” for the intensity of the criticism over the foundation’s cutoff of funding. Brinker’s letter, printed in its entirety below, was in response to an open letter penned by Quinn on the blog “Under God.”

Here is the letter, sent Wednesday night:

Dear Sally,

Thank you for your open letter to me. I’ve valued your friendship and support over the years, just as I’ve valued all of those who have run the races, attended community fundraisers, and otherwise supported our organization and our mission to end breast cancer, and I apologize for how we mishandled this situation.

Because you know our work, Sally, you know that we would never, ever, leave women unserved, especially the low-income, uninsured and underinsured women who are relying on us more than ever in an uncertain economy. My promise to my late sister Suzy was a promise to all women, especially those with no resources to face a breast cancer diagnosis themselves. This is why I was determined to create the Komen foundation 30 years ago and name it in remembrance of my  sister as a symbol of action for all the mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends who have struggled against and lost their battles to cancer. That is why we are here and why we’ve been here for three decades — to find cures in the laboratories, and to take care of women who need us. That mission and promise has not changed, and our commitment to this cause will never change until we find a cure.

I’ve seen many commentators suggest that the swift reaction to our decision is an indicator of something larger and more dangerous in our society — culture wars, if you will, or the feeling that women’s health care is being sacrificed on the altar of political ideologies.  If I have learned nothing else from our experience of the past week, it is that we in women’s health organizations must be absolutely true to our core missions, and avoid even the appearance of bias or judgment in our decisions.

I made some mistakes.  In retrospect, we have learned a lot and  must now rebuild the trust that so many want to have in us, and respond to the many thousands who continue to believe in our mission and do what we do best: the funding of cutting-edge science and to bring that work to our communities to help the hundreds of thousands of women we serve each year.

Sally, again, I have been grateful for your support over these 30 years and  for the commitment of all of those  who have called or written to pledge their continued support.  I apologize to all who are disappointed in us, and will work hard to restore your trust.

Very truly yours,

Nancy G. Brinker

Founder and CEO

Susan G. Komen for the Cure

Related content:

An open letter to Komen CEO Nancy Brinker

Timeline of key events in Komen controversy

How Komen decided to defund Planned Parenthood

Komen vice president resigns amid controversy

PHOTOS: The Komen funding dispute

  • freedomgirl1

    Komen turned on poor women, hoping no one would notice, to appease the religious right.

    Nancy, we noticed.

  • Pan-Zagloba

    “The funding of cutting edge science.” To date, they have not found any entity deserving of stem-cell research dollars, despite holding onto a large fund precisely for that purpose. Crocodile tears do not instill sympathy.

  • Kas300

    She only apologizes when her pal Sally rebukes her? Sounds quite sincere—-NOT.

  • OhMy

    The “poor women” Brinker seems to be helping with the Komen Foundation is the executives of the charity and the board. If Brinker is sincere about her apology, then Komen needs to restructure salaries and use the money to actually benefit research, do screenings for breast cancer and assist women who have breast cancer. It’s time for Komen to stop playing politics with the donations made “for the cure”.

  • CalifObserver

    Well if you read Sally Quinn’s column… you will see that Nancy Brinker doesn’t come close to answering her question. And that is….Will the Komen Foundation continue to fund Planned Parenthood? It really isn’t enough at this stage to say…. “Well they (PP) can apply for grants.” The only way SGK can reagain any credibility in this is to announce they are going to continue funding PP at the levels they previously funded.

  • tinyjab40

    This letter doesn’t say anything. There is no indication that Komen will fight off the right-wing takeover which engulfed it. And there is no indication, other than a bland statement, that the group is structured to be apolitical

    The safest thing is still for people like me to contribute to Planned Parenthood where we know the money will go to health care for the poor. Komen can cater to the right wing.

  • cinesimonj

    I think they’re till trying to hide the fact that they are, in fact, a very right ing-oriented organisation.
    The people they tend to hire are very much affiliated with various republican offices. And of course, they succumbed to the bizarre, anti-life stem cell protesters. Arguably much worse a move than what the tried to do to Planned P_arenthood.

    They will succeed to some degree to hide this from the average donor, but they certainly have managed generate a lot of suspicios looks in their direction. Brinker and LKomen will certainly find fuindraising more and more difficult, methinks.

    Which is a good thing – I highly recommend you check out an upcoming documentary named ‘Pink Ribbons, inc’.
    I saw the trailer the day this latest brouhaha broke – very apprpriate.
    Basically it points out that the likes of Komen are very successful at avoiding the contribition of environmental factors such as extra chemicals in our systems from makeup(guess who funds Komen?), how businesses ‘pink wash’ their dirty, unethical products, etc.

  • cinesimonj


  • chestermarx

    Nancy’s husband sits on the board, Komen holds a lot of stock, and they seem to fund a little to a lot of different charities and schools. The compensation for a charity board seems excessive. I’ll bet if the rigid religious right checked what charities the Komen Foundation supports they’d be more upset than the PP supporters. Never in my wildest would I imagine that reading a financial report would be interesting.

  • KarenLS

    Because the short answer is that after this one time deal they will not provide grants to PP. All they did was state that their overt prohibition against groups being investigated for any reason will now go away. In future they will say that “we looked at all the requests for grants and PP was below the cut line of what we had to give out this year.”

    Of course, people are forgetting that if they had gone to look at the audited financials on the komen website they would have seen there were multiple layers to it. The “top” layer that pays Brinker shows that she is making a lot of money for a charitable organization but the total still looks to be within todays norms (20% to salary and admin). However, you peel back the next layer and you see that of their five focus areas that they divide the majority of the money into …… almost all of it goes to salary and admin within those focus areas. Ultimately perhaps 20% goes to grants to do actual research or support. And it all makes me wonder how many of brinkers relatives and close friends, and those of the other executives work for komen in those focus areas……where the bulk of the money goes to salary and admin.

    It may have begun with all the best of intentions but today it is just another scam using the emotions of survivors and family and friends.

  • antiwingnut

    My question to Nancy Brinker would be “since your husband is a multi millionaire, why is your salary not $1 instead of $500,000??”

  • malcolmyoung1

    Good point. Karen Handel also opposed stem cell research – openly bragged about it on her failed campaign – and they hired her despite that too.

  • wildcat1

    The notion the Planned Parenthood is controversial is ridiculous. Only among the far right is this an issue. Thoughtful people recognize that 1) Planned pregnancies result in few abortions. 2) The money they do receive to provide this legal service does not and cannot come from the federal government. The demonstrate that in their required reporting every year. The notion that obvious congressional investigations should trigger a rejection of funding was obviously a ploy. If they are found LEGALLY guilty of something that would be another issue. You stepped in it this time, now it’s time to go back to supporting women’s health without the right-wing agenda.

  • gary60

    First charity in history to be held hostage by the beneficiary its donation. The Komen Foundation apparently has no right to decide who it gives money to. Planned Parentlhood apparently has a permanent right to receive Komen’s donations forever. Is this a completely screwed up country we live in or what. The Komen Foundation should close its doors, give the balance of its money to Planned Parenthood and walk away.

  • gary60

    First charity in history to be held hostage by the beneficiary its donation. The Komen Foundation apparently has no right to decide who it gives money to. Planned Parentlhood apparently has a permanent right to receive Komen’s donations forever. Is this a completely screwed up country we live in or what. The Komen Foundation should close its doors, give the balance of its money to Planned Parenthood and walk away.

  • jy151310

    The lesson is straightforward. No charity should ever align itself with Planned Parenthood. They are toxic.

  • cricket44

    The simple answer, Quien, is that she didn’t. But I know you are fond of those types of accusations.

    The only ones who champion abortion are the ant-sex ed and anti-contraception folks. And Jane Roe is welcome to her opinion but it is ultimately irrelevant.

  • quiensabe

    Well, cricket, since Norma has become a Christian she’s full aware of the mistake she make letting Sara Weddington hood-wink her into the malaise that this nation finds itself today.

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