The Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced Wednesday that two of its leaders are leaving their posts, months after the breast cancer advocacy group came under fire over its decision -- later reversed -- to cut funding for Planned Parenthood projects.
Nancy G. Brinker will step down as CEO once her successor is found and take on a new role within the organization, the foundation said in a statement. As chair of the Komen Board Executive Committee, she will focus on revenue creation, strategy and global growth, it said.
President Elizabeth Thompson will leave the organization altogether next month, the statement said, adding, "Thompson said the time is right for her to pursue other opportunities."
Brinker told the Wall Street Journal Wednesday that the changes had nothing to do with the firestorm that erupted in January and February, when the foundation made a decision that would have cut funding to Planned Parenthood projects.
"I apologized to everyone," Brinker told the newspaper. "I think we all made mistakes and we addressed them and we're through that and we're moving on."
In 1982, Brinker founded Susan G. Komen for the Cure -- named for her sister who had died from breast cancer two years before.
Brinker went on to become a political appointee of the George W. Bush administration, serving as U.S. ambassador to Hungary and as chief of protocol.
Thompson, who began her career in medical publishing before turning toward cancer advocacy, was named president of the foundation in September 2010, two years after joining the group to lead its research and scientific programs.
Wednesday's announcement comes six months after Karen Handel, a vice president of the organization, resigned in the wake of a Huffington Post report, based on a review of internal e-mails at the foundation, that concluded she had been the driving force behind the foundation's decision not to renew parts of its longstanding partnership with Planned Parenthood. Handel denied that was the case.
Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, was a Republican gubernatorial candidate in Georgia in 2010, losing to current Gov. Nathan Deal in a primary runoff.
"Let me be clear, since I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood," Handel wrote on her campaign website in 2010. Planned Parenthood operates hundreds of family clinics where abortions are performed.
When asked in February what role her position on abortion may have played in the decision not to renew funding for Planned Parenthood projects, Handel said: "Absolutely none."
"I'm a professional. ... My No. 1 priority is the fight against breast cancer, our mission and the women that we serve. The only place for politics in all of this came from Planned Parenthood, when they launched this vicious, vicious attack on a great organization and perpetrated what was nothing short of a shakedown to coerce a private entity to give them grants," she told CNN affiliate WXIA in Atlanta.
"It's abundantly clear that this was never about the fight against breast cancer for Planned Parenthood. What it was about, and remains about, is the fight to advance Planned Parenthood's agenda, and they sucked Komen in the middle of it and used them in all of this. And it's a disgrace," Handel said.
After encountering a deluge of opposition, the Komen foundation reversed its decision.
On Wednesday, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America praised Brinker, Thompson and the Komen Foundation. They "have made profound contributions to women's health," said Cecile Richards, in a statement. "They have helped elevate the importance of breast cancer detection and prevention nationwide."
The organization Brinker founded has invested almost $2 billion in breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment, according to its website.
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