Ashton Kutcher has stepped down as chairman of Thorn, the anti-child-sex-abuse organization he cofounded. His resignation comes days after he and his wife, Mila Kunis, publicly addressed the letters they wrote in support of their That ’70s Show castmate and convicted rapist, Danny Masterson.
“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,” wrote Kutcher in a letter to Thorn’s board on September 14. “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. I cannot allow my error in judgment to distract from our efforts and the children we serve.”
Kutcher and Kunis, along with That ’70s Show cast members Debra Jo Rupp and Kurtwood Smith, wrote letters in support of Masterson, who, on May 31 was convicted of two counts of forcible rape for separate assaults of two women in 2003. Kutcher and Kunis’s letters of support, which were first published by journalist Meghann Cuniff, spoke glowingly of Masterson’s character and urged the judge to consider a lighter sentence for their former costar. Kutcher wrote that he considered Masterson “an extraordinarily honest and intentional human being” and a “role model” who was “among few people that I would trust to be alone with my son and daughter.” Kunis described Masterson’s “exceptional character” and the “tremendous positive influence” on her over the years. Despite their show of support, Masterson was sentenced to at least 30 years behind bars.
After their letters were published, Kutcher and Kunis faced swift backlash from the public, so much so that Kutcher and Kunis released an Instagram video addressing their decision to support Masterson. In the video, Kutcher said that he wrote the letter “to represent the person that we knew for 25 years,” while Kunis said that “the letters were not written to question the legitimacy of the judicial system or the validity of the jury’s ruling.”
“We support victims,” she added. “We have done this historically through our work and will continue to do so in the future.”
Kutcher and Kunis’s Instagram video incited more ire from the public, with many fans flooding the comment section of his past Instagrams to criticize the couple for what they found to be an insufficient apology. (Comments on the Instagram video were closed.) Kutcher delivered a more direct mea culpa while resigning from the Thorn board, apologizing specifically to victims of sexual assault in the letter. “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,” he wrote. “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.” Kunis, who was an observer on the organization’s board, has also resigned.
Kutcher founded Thorn in 2009 with his then wife Demi Moore. Thorn, initially called DNA (for Demi and Ashton), aims to combat child sexual abuse material online. In 2017, Kutcher testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the horrific abuse he had witnessed as a member of the Thorn board. In 2022, Kutcher raised over $1 million for Thorn by running in the New York City Marathon, citing one victim as his motivation for running the race. “I put that kid on the other side of the finish line,” he told People. “I know she’s out there and I want her to know that somebody’s coming for her.”