Ashton Kutcher is stepping down as chairman of the anti-child-sex-abuse organisation Thorn, which he co-founded in 2009 with then-wife Demi Moore, amid backlash over his letter of support for the now-convicted rapist Danny Masterson.
Mila Kunis, to whom Kutcher is now married and who also wrote a letter of support for Masterson, is also stepping down from her role as an observer on the board. The couple co-starred with Masterson in That ’70s Show between 1998 and 2005.
On 8 September, the 47-year-old actor was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison for raping two women two decades ago.
Kutcher, 45, announced his resignation in a letter addressed to the board on Thursday.
“After my wife and I spent several days of listening, personal reflection, learning, and conversations with survivors and the employees and leadership at Thorn, I have determined the responsible thing for me to do is resign as Chairman of the Board, effectively immediately,” Kutcher wrote in the statement shared with Time magazine.
“I cannot allow my error in judgment to distract from our efforts and the children we serve.”
“Victims of sexual abuse have been historically silenced and the character statement I submitted is yet another painful instance of questioning victims who are brave enough to share their experiences,” he added.
“The mission must always be the priority and I want to offer my heartfelt apology to all victims of sexual violence and everyone at Thorn who I hurt by what I did.
“And to the broader advocacy community, I am deeply sorry. I remain proud of what we have accomplished in the past decade and will continue to support Thorn’s work. Thank you for your tireless advocacy and dedication to this cause.”
The news comes shortly after it was revealed that he and Kunis, 40, had written letters vouching for their former co-star’s “exceptional character” ahead of his sentencing.
Kutcher called Masterson a “role model” and “a person that is consistently there for you when you need him”.
“While I’m aware that the judgment has been cast as guilty on two counts of rape by force and the victims have a great desire for justice, I hope that my testament to his character is taken into consideration in sentencing,” his letter reads.
“I do not believe he is an ongoing harm to society and having his daughter raised without a present father would be a tertiary injustice in and of itself. Thank you for taking the time to read this.”
Meanwhile, in her letter, Kunis called Masterson “an amazing friend, confidant, and, above all, an outstanding older brother figure to me”.
He had initially been accused of drugging and raping three women at his home between 2001 and 2003. He was convicted of raping two of the women in 2003, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the third allegation from November 2001, brought forward by a former girlfriend.
Kutcher and Kunis released an apology video last weekend, addressing the controversy.
“We are aware of the pain that has been caused by the character letters that we wrote on behalf of Danny Masterson,” Kutcher said.
“We support victims. We have done this historically through our work and will continue to do so in the future,” he continued. “They were intended for the judge to read and not to undermine the testimony of the victims or re-traumatise them in any way. We would never want to do that, and we’re sorry if that has taken place.”
The couple’s video also faced backlash, with many questioning the wording of their apology.
Yellowjackets’ Christina Ricci appeared to call out Kutcher and Kunis, writing on Instagram: “So sometimes people we loved and admired do horrible things. They might not do these things to us and we only know who they were to us but that doesn’t mean they didn’t do the horrible things and to discredit the abused is a crime.
“Unfortunately I’ve known lots of ‘awesome guys’ who were lovely to me but have been proven to be abusers privately. I’ve also had personal experience with this. Believe victims. It’s not easy to come forward. It’s not easy to get a conviction.”
If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, you can contact your nearest Rape Crisis organisation for specialist, independent and confidential support. For more information, visit their website here.