AIDS activists are coming after fashion designer Kenneth Cole, demanding that he quit as board chairman of the AIDS research charity amfAR because of a deal he made with Harvey Weinstein.

An open letter was written and signed by more than 60 people including Greg Louganis, Larry Kramer and Peter Staley asking that he quit or resign, according to NBC News. The letter details an arrangement between Cole and Weinstein where they would split the proceeds of some items from the glitzy Cannes/amfAR charity auction between amfAR and American Repertory Theater (ART) which showed a trial production of the Weinstein-produced musical Finding Neverland. The deal was made before Weinstein’s sexual harassment scandal.

Weinstein owed $600,000 to ART for Finding Neverland before it hit Broadway. There was an arrangement between ART and Weinstein and other investors that they would be reimbursed if they got third parties to donate. They would have to pay the $600,000 to ART before June 1 or they would not be reimbursed.

After the auction, Cole planned to wire $600,000, without board approval, to ART at the request of Weinstein’s office. This led to investigations and Cole asking board members to sign a nondisclosure agreement which prevented them from talking about Weinstein. Weinstein also offered $1 million to amfAR if everyone signed.

 

In a statement to NBC News, Cole said that the letter “is based on a false narrative and distortion of facts.”

He adds, “I have proudly served on the board of amfAR for 30 yrs and as its chair for 13 of them. We have had an impact in many of the most important breakthroughs in the fight against HIV and AIDS having raised hundreds of millions of dollars for this lifesaving work.”

“I have no intention of abandoning that mission because of a transaction that was determined to be legal and ethical and was engaged in because it served amfAR’s mission.”

In the statement, Cole also said that Weinstein “has never been a friend of mine.” He adds, “I worked with him as chairman of amfAR only because it was good for amfAR and I did not know about his despicable behavior until I read about it in the New York Times. Any suggestion that I somehow made this deal as a favor to Weinstein is ridiculous and patently false.”