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Recording Academy Task Force Chair Tina Tchen Connected Jussie Smollett's Family to Chicago Prosecutor

Tina Tchen
Monica Schipper/Getty Images for The New York Women's Foundation

Tina Tchen speaks onstage during the 30th Anniversary Celebrating Women Breakfast at Marriott Marquis Hotel on May 11, 2017 in New York City. 

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx has said that contact is why she eventually withdrew her involvement from the case.

When Tina Tchen was appointed chair of The Recording Academy's independent task force trusted with addressing female advancement in the music industry last year, it was her lack of connections in music that made her an appealing candidate. Now what associations she has in entertainment are garnering the ex-chief of staff for former first lady Michelle Obama some unwanted attention.

"The fact that she lacks business ties to the music industry ensures her objectivity as chair,” said Recording Academy president and CEO Neil Portnow in a statement at the time. He added, "Tina Tchen is an accomplished advocate for women and impact-oriented leader versed in convening disparate stakeholders for a common purpose." 

On Wednesday (March 28) Tchen released a statement acknowledging she previously approached Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx regarding the alleged hate crime attack of Empire star Jussie Smollett to put Foxx in touch with one of the actor's relatives. Tchen, a friend of Smollett's family, said the Smollett family “had concerns about how the investigation was being characterized in public.” 

In Tchen's statement, she explained she knows Foxx from working together previously and that connecting the prosecutor with "an alleged victim's family" was her "sole activity" in the case. 

Foxx, who supports her office's decision to drop all charges against the actor, has said she regrets speaking with Smollett's family member in the beginning of the investigation and that contact is why she eventually withdraw her involvement from the prosecution when Smollett became a suspect for allegedly orchestrating the attack himself. The prosecutor's decision to drop charges against Smolett have been met with great public scrutiny with some suggesting she could -- and should -- lose her job over the case's mishandling. 

Tchen was appointed to lead the Recording Academy task force in March 2018. Over the past year, the task force’s recommendations led the Academy to invite 900 new voting members, all of whom were women, people of color and/or under 35. It also encouraged the Academy to launch the Producer and Engineering Inclusion Initiative that calls for anyone involved in making records to consider at least two women as part of the selection process every time a producer or engineer is hired.

While with the Obamas, aside to running the first lady's staff, Tchen was also assistant to the president and executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls.