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Seattle-based Planned Parenthood affiliate ousts CEO

A white woman with blonde bobbed hair speaks at a lectern with the State of Washington seal on it.
Elaine Thompson
The Associated Press file
Chris Charbonneau speaks at a news conference on Aug. 22, 2019. Charbonneau was removed in December from her job as CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky.

The CEO of a Seattle-based affiliate of Planned Parenthood has been removed from her position after controversy following a donor’s use of a racist term in a meeting.

Chris Charbonneau was ousted last week as head of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, the Seattle Times reported. The organization said a donor used a racist term to refer to Black people this fall and Charbonneau repeated the word while discussing the meeting with another staffer.

Charbonneau and the board have differing accounts of how she reacted to the donor’s use of the word, which the former CEO said was in the context of comparing the treatment of women impacted by abortion restrictions to the mistreatment of Black people.

Board members Jeff Sprung and Colleen Foster said in an email to the newspaper an investigation found Charbonneau did not admonish the donor.

Charbonneau, who is white, said she was upset by the use of the racist term and told the donor, also white, the word shouldn’t have been used.

While Charbonneau has not been given a copy of the investigation’s findings, she said she was told by the board that the members found her account of the meeting truthful.

The reproductive rights affiliate operates in six states and employs 700 people.

Charbonneau said she was upset at being painted as racist for, as she described it, quoting what someone else had said, including using the words “quote unquote.”

“If I had to do it over again, I would not have used that actual term,” Charbonneau said. “I was astonished at the sort of cavalier disregard with which my 40-year commitment was being treated.”

The board appointed Rebecca Gibron, who had been serving as chief operating officer and previously led Idaho Planned Parenthood, to head the Seattle-based affiliate while a national search for a CEO is underway.

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