It’s hard to say which entity has been more badly tarnished by the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment accusations: the Democratic Party or Hollywood.
An entertainment insider who played heavily in politics, Mr. Weinstein has managed to taint them both with a scandal that has contributed to the perception that neither Democrats nor Hollywood has walked the talk on sexual harassment.
Despite efforts by celebrities and Democrats to champion women, the shocking sexual misconduct reports have dredged up reminders of the Hollywood casting couch as well as the party’s blind eye to the sexual lapses of top Democrats, starting with former President Bill Clinton.
The timing could hardly be worse. Both Democrats and entertainers are scrambling to disassociate themselves from Mr. Weinstein as the party seeks to overcome its disastrous election losses last year and Hollywood struggles with its worst summer box office in 25 years.
“The film titan and famed Democratic bundler is no longer head of his own movie studio. And his list of alleged crimes is growing,” said film critic Christian Toto of Hollywood in Toto. “So, too, is the stain the scandal is leaving on not just his fallen empire. Much of Hollywood is either complicit in his behavior or far too eager to sweep it under the cultural rug.”
The New York Times reported Thursday that Mr. Weinstein reached at least eight legal settlements with women over sexual harassment and unwanted physical conduct and that accusations over his behavior spanned nearly three decades.
After the initial report, seven more actresses, including stars Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, came forward to talk about negative encounters with Mr. Weinstein. The New Yorker reported Tuesday that three women said he raped them.
Weinstein spokeswoman Sallie Hofmeister released a statement Tuesday saying, “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances. He will not be available for further comments, as he is taking the time to focus on his family, on getting counseling and rebuilding his life.”
The blowback quickly reached Washington, where a number of Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, said they would forward their campaign donations from Weinstein to charities supporting women.
Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala D. Harris of California donated $5,000 and $10,000, respectively, to women’s organizations. Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut gave $2,700 to the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence, and Sen. Kristin Gillibrand of New York gave $11,800 to RAINN, the national sexual assault hotline, according to their press offices.
Others have come under criticism for delaying their responses, starting with former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Both waited until Tuesday to break their silence on the accusations.
“I was shocked and appalled by the revelations about Harvey Weinstein,” Mrs. Clinton said. “The behavior described by women coming forward cannot be tolerated. Their courage and the support of others is critical in helping to stop this kind of behavior.”
Mr. Obama said he and wife, Michelle, were “disgusted by the recent reports about Harvey Weinstein.”
Mr. Weinstein has donated more than $1 million to the Democratic National Committee and Democratic candidates since 2000, including Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Meanwhile, Hollywood has come under fire for failing to expose Mr. Weinstein, who at the very least had a reputation for chasing women.
Actor George Clooney told the Daily Beast that a “bunch of people I know would say, ‘Yeah, Harvey’s a dog’ or ‘Harvey’s chasing girls,’ but again, this is a very different kind of thing. This is harassment on a very high level.
“A lot of people are doing the ‘you had to know’ thing right now and, yes, if you’re asking if I knew that someone who was very powerful had a tendency to hit on young, beautiful women, sure,” Mr. Clooney said. “But I had no idea that it had gone to the level of having to pay off eight women for their silence and that these women were threatened and victimized.”
Like Mr. Clooney, many celebrities have denounced Mr. Weinstein’s reported behavior, but some big stars and top shows have been criticized for failing to speak up after the story broke last week.
NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” said nothing about the scandal, after which SNL producer Lorne Michaels told the Daily Mail, “It’s a New York thing,” which prompted a rash of criticism on social media and elsewhere.
“They bravely go after politicians. ‘Weekend Update’ has turned into an anti-Trump editorial, and good for them,” MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said in a Tuesday segment. “But Lorne Michaels says this is a local story. That’s like saying the Catholic Church scandal was a central Rome story. People have to stop protecting Harvey Weinstein.”
Most celebrities who have spoken up have condemned Mr. Weinstein, though there were some initial missteps.
Designer Donna Karan retracted her initial defense of Mr. Weinstein, while former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Donna Brazile reportedly deleted a Monday tweet saying the Weinstein Co. has “taken the lead against sexual harassment and assault.”
Several late-night comics were criticized for waiting until this week to broach the subject then softening the blow by leavening their blasts with jabs at President Trump and Fox News, which CEO Roger Ailes and host Bill O’Reilly departed after accusations of harassment.
“Harvey Weinstein was fired by his company yesterday for being accused of sexual harassment — not good,” NBC’s Jimmy Fallon said. “They said if he keeps it up, he’ll wind up with his own show on Fox News.”
FrontPage magazine’s Daniel Greenfield said both Hollywood and Democrats were culpable because Mr. Weinstein was “protected by power that he accumulated within a leftist industry and which he cloaked in leftist politics.
“Hence the Obama fundraisers, Hillary photos, Bill Clinton interview, the Planned Parenthood shindig and all that. It’s why he tried blaming a right-wing conspiracy afterward. Hey, it worked for Bill Clinton.”
• Laura Kelly contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2017 The Washington Times, LLC.