“Who is Harvey Weinstein?” is a perfectly acceptable question in light of a bombshell story The New York Times broke Thursday that reports decades of his alleged serial sexual harassment and settlements with women in Hollywood.
Putting it bluntly, Harvey Weinstein, for a time, was the most powerful producer and studio head in Hollywood. He is almost singlehandedly responsible for the indie-to-mainstream film explosion in the 90’s (backing “Pulp Fiction,” “Good Will Hunting” and “Shakespeare in Love” to name just a few examples). His influence in Hollywood is unparalleled.
But it’s his influence out of Hollywood that has parts of media and the political left flummoxed to the point of silence. Weinstein, fresh off producing a media-hailed documentary titled “The Hunting Ground,” about sexual assault on college campuses, has also taken a leave from his production company, The Weinstein Company. Who would have guessed the only real hunting ground, according to women interviews by the newspaper, was Harvey Weinstein’s casting couch?
Actress and dedicated liberal women’s rights activist Ashley Judd went on record for the New York Times story, which states: ‘Two decades ago, the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein invited Ashley Judd to the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel for what the young actress expected to be a business breakfast meeting. Instead, he had her sent up to his room, where he appeared in a bathrobe and asked if he could give her a massage or she could watch him shower, she recalled in an interview.
“ ‘How do I get out of the room as fast as possible without alienating Harvey Weinstein?’ Ms. Judd said she remembers thinking.”
Weinstein has amassed a small army of professional political spin doctors, image consultants and PR wizards to help blunt any damage from the allegations of settled lawsuits involving several actresses. He has even gone so far as threatening legal action against the Times for its report, calling in favors from the highest ranks of Democratic party operatives.
Lawyer Lanny Davis is defending Weinstein, which is great because Davis has experience in defending important people from sexual abuse allegations – most prominently President Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Also advising Weinstein is Democratic powerhouse PR firm SKDKnickerbocker Managing Director and former Obama White House Communications Director Anita Dunn.
SKDK ran interference for Planned Parenthood when undercover videos inside the organization hit the media last year. SKDK also ran promotions for the Women’s March against Donald Trump’s inauguration this past January, where Ashley Judd was a prominent speaker. SKDK insists Weinstein is not a client in any capacity, which is technically true, as Dunn has stated she is advising Weinstein pro-bono. That’s neat.
Another attorney advising Weinstein is Lisa Bloom. If that name sounds familiar it’s because Bloom has made waves recently both organizing the campaign against Bill O’Reilly when he was at Fox News and representing victims against comedian and actor Bill Cosby.
Bloom’s advocacy on behalf of victims seems to stop at the water’s edge of where principled stands for victims end and politics begins. One other slightly important detail regarding Bloom? Weinstein has optioned her book for a mini-series. Convenient.
For a side of the aisle that has been grandstanding about the rights of women who made accusations against President Handmaid’s Tale, Weinstein’s Democratic defenders sure don’t seemed all that concerned with the rights of women who report being victimized by their biggest donors.
With Weinstein’s political influence came close connections to the Obama White House as well, meeting with then President Obama 13 times. At a gathering, former First Lady Michelle Obama described Weinstein, who was in attendance, “as a wonderful human being, a good friend and just a powerhouse.” Malia Obama, upon exiting the White House and appearing to show an interest in the film industry, took an internship with The Weinstein Company.
Malia Obama should be left out of any debate concerning her father’s loyalty and his relationship to Weinstein. But the question has to be asked, if people are claiming that Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment was worst-kept secret in the media and Hollywood for years, than why was he allowed repeatedly wield influence this close to the former president and his family?
Democrats en masse are rushing to return or donate campaign donations they received from Weinstein. These include the biggest names considered possible presidential candidates in 2020, like Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey, who have vowed to donate their contributions from Weinstein to charity.
Another prominent Democrat who met with Weinstein prior to publication of The New York times story was rising star Sen. Kamala Harris of California, took a private meeting with Weinstein in the Hamptons in July.
On top of Democratic politicians embracing Weinstein for years, is the question of how, if Weinstein’s alleged behavior was such an open secret for so long, did this go unnoticed and unreported in media?
In the wake of the New York Times article, reporter Rebecca Traister wrote in The Cut: “I have been having conservations about Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment for more than 17 years.”
Discussing an incident that she says took place in 2000, Traister wrote that Weinstein called her a vulgar name referring to women when he complained about a question she asked, and then attacked her reporting colleague and then-boyfriend Andrew Goldman when Goldman tried to calm Weinstein down and get an apology.
“Weinstein went nuclear, pushing Andrew down a set of steps inside the Tribeca Grand – knocking him over with such force that his tape recorder hit a woman, who suffered a long-term injury – and dragging Andrew, in a headlock, onto Sixth Avenue,” Traister wrote.
Traister added that Weinstein was so powerful back then and “there were so many journalists on his payroll, working as consultants on movie projects, or as screenwriters, or for his magazine” that he was able to suppress the new coverage of the incident, even though news photographers captured photos of his actions.
“After that incident … I began to hear from lots of other people, now other reporters, who were working, often for years, to nail down the story of Harvey’s sexual abuses,” Traister wrote.
Democracy was apparently not only dying in darkness, but needed a defibrillator when it came to Harvey Weinstein.
Both media and the entertainment figures were happy to applaud Vice President Joe Biden taking the stage at the Oscars last year on behalf of his “It’s On Us” campaign against sexual assault. They called on everyone to speak up and join Biden, President Obama and survivors of abuse in taking the pledge to “intervene in situations when consent has not or cannot be given.”
But as reported in The Daily Beast, in the wake of the Weinstein settlements, Hollywood has been rendered mute.
There are those who have spoken out in defense of Judd since publication of the New York Times article. They including noted feminist, writer, director and actress Lena Dunham, along with actress Rose McGowan. Both deserve credit for doing so, as well as Ashley Judd, who has risked her career by going on record against a man who has employed some of her closest friends and allies to defend him.
Still silent is a media industry too dependent and obsessed with access to the upper echelon of Hollywood and its stars for content, and who have no problem lecturing America from their late-night talk show stages about health care or guns but are unable to find words of criticism when it comes to one of their own.
Remember that come this February, when Jimmy Kimmel is hosting another Oscar show where people in an industry that covered up for Weinstein for decades are once again lecturing us about the virtues of Hollywood, and the tolerant progressivism that comes with it.