Experts explain why Weinstein's alleged sexual harassment is not a partisan issue
The case of former Hollywood studio executive Harvey Weinstein is just the latest in a series of alleged high-profile sexual misconduct by powerful men in media that have come to the surface in recent years.
The case shares a number of similarities with the sexual harassment charges against Fox News founder and former CEO Roger Ailes, particularly because of Weinstein's close political connections. However, the Hollywood producer's history of contributing to progressive causes, his misconduct seems to be hitting liberal allies particularly hard.
On October 5, The New York Times first broke the story that Weinstein had been paying off women he allegedly sexually harassed on at least eight occasions over the course of three decades. By Sunday, October 8, Weinstein was fired from his company. The Weinstein Company is now looking to change its name.
After actress Naomi Judd and former assistants and employees of the Hollywood mogul shared their stories, additional victims have stepped forward, including actress Rose McGowan, who reportedly received a 100,000 settlement and Lauren Sivan, who met Weinstein as local cable news anchor in New York.
Some Hollywood insiders had long known about Weinstein's proclivities. Others have have since come out and condemned the producer including award-winning actresses Meryl Streep, Dame Judy Dench and Glenn Close.
The fall of the Tinseltown giant shook not only the West Coast, but Washington, too.
Since 1990, Weinstein has contributed roughly $1.4 million to mostly left-leaning candidates and political parties, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, including to the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, whose daughter Malia recently landed an internship with the Weinstein Company.
Now the recipients of donations from the fallen starmaker are under pressure to return campaign contributions.
Weinstein has reportedly given more than $1.4 million to candidates and political parties since 1990, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. The Republican Party called on Democrats to return recent campaign contributions, including more than 246,000 to the DNC.
"If Democrats and the DNC truly stand up for women like they say they do, then returning this dirty money should be a no brainer," said RNC chair Ronna McDaniel.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who received roughly $14,200 in campaign contributions from Weinstein over the years, announced on Friday that he will be donating the money to a number of charities supporting women.
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said he will give the $20,000 in campaign cash received from Weinstein to the Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center.
Other Democrats are also reportedly getting rid of the "dirty money," including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Kristin Gillibrand of New York, Corey Booker of New Jersey, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico.
Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who did not receive money from the film exec, told CNN's State of the Union on Sunday that it is "probably a smart move" for those who received money to give it back if they want to distance themselves from Weinstein's behavior.
Over the years, Weinstein's "stature as a liberal lion" has grown, the Times reported.
According to Lorraine Bayard de Volo, chair of the gender studies program at the University of Colorado Boulder, this stature may have helped shield him from his accusers, who were already wary to come forward.
"Perhaps not by design, but by effect, it might have helped shelter him from some accusations because he posed himself as a feminist ally," she suggested.
On top of campaign contributions, Weinstein helped raise money for Planned Parenthood and took part in the January 2017 Women's March. He contributed $100,000 to Rutgers University toward the Gloria Steinem Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies, an endowment Rutgers does not intend to return, despite the recent controversy.
The producer of "Shakespeare in Love," "Gangs of New York" and "Pulp Fiction," even helped promote "The Hunting Ground," a 2015 documentary about campus sexual assault, which he helped push onto the short-list of nominees for an Academy Award.
All of this activity has contributed to the sense of outrage felt by those who saw Weinstein as an ally, explained Bayard de Volo.
"He posed as a feminist ally, as this good progressive, so I think for people who consider themselves feminist, who believed that he was a feminist ally, they rightly would feel very betrayed by this," she said.
In the case of Fox News' Roger Ailes sexual harassment allegations, she noted it was less surprising, because unlike Weinstein, Ailes made no pretense of being feminist.
"Sexual harassment and sexual assault really need to be understood as expressions of power," Bayard de Volo noted, adding that these incidents are more often about power than sexual attraction or lust. "It's unfortunate that it doesn't really surprise me when extremely powerful men like Weinstein and Ailes are shown to be sexual harassers."
In recent days, some reports have highlighted Weinstein's treatment of women as particularly egregious because of the political causes he supported, while other have tried to excuse his behavior on the same basis.
However, for the victims of sexual harassment, none of that matters.
"Any woman who is experiencing sexual harassment, I don't know if that should ever make a difference to her who her harasser is," Bayard de Volo stated. "It's wrong regardless."
The editorial board at the Kansas City Star published a piece titled, "Harvey Weinstein is the Democratic Roger Ailes," writing that that regardless of the political party or the causes a powerful individual like Ailes or Weinstein supports, it does not excuse his private behavior.
"There is no such thing as someone who’s 'a pig, but our pig,'" the editorial board wrote. "We look forward to the day when the answer to every complaint about this kind of abuse of power isn’t to point at some other abuser across the aisle."
The New York Times editorial board warned top Democrats against staying silent in light of Weinstein's abuses, writing that Weinstein does not deserve a pass because he has apologized and pledged "yet more money for liberal causes, including gun control and scholarships for women in film."
Since the story broke last week, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who received thousands of dollars from Weinstein, have not commented on the scandal. Yet Clinton sharply and repeatedly condemned President Donald Trump for "admitting and laughing about sexually assaulting women" in a 2005 Access Hollywood tape.
"These Democratic leaders, admired by many young women and men, should make clear that Mr. Weinstein also deserves condemnation," the Times stated. "If such powerful leaders take the money and stay mum, who will speak for women like Mr. Weinstein’s accusers?"
Many reports have focused on the fact that Hollywood turned a blind eye to Weinstein's abuse of power for too long. But the same has been said for other high-profile cases, like Roger Ailes.
Republicans, who have benefitted hugely over the years from positive coverage and far reach of Fox News, were largely silent when Ailes resigned from Fox in 2016 after settling numerous multi-million dollar lawsuits with former on-air talent. President Trump even defended Ailes, who died in May, saying during the presidential campaign, "I can tell you that some of the women that are complaining, I know how much he's helped them."
Despite the years of silence about high-level sexual misconduct in the media world, the fact that the stories are coming to light is worth noting, wrote Rebecca Traister, writer The Cut who observed Weinstein's abuses of power firsthand.
"Something has changed. Sources have gone on the record. It’s worth it to wonder why," she said, noting the cases of women "finding strength and some kind of power in numbers" to come forward against Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Donald Trump and now Harvey Weinstein.