A New York Times report, titled “Weinstein’s Complicity Machine” describes the disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s strategies for silencing women and remaining a credible Hollywood powerhouse despite the decades of speculations about his numerous sexual harassment, assault and even rape cases.
While Weinstein bluffed his way out of more than one lawsuit by intimidating reporters, the true ace up his sleeve was his political connections to influential Washington insiders. Among his support from the political left — the self-proclaimed champions of womankind — Weinstein profited the most from his relationships with Bill and Hillary Clinton, and the pair of liberal lawmakers may have been instrumental in covering up their friend and donor’s persistent sexual misconduct.
On at least two occasions, Clinton advisers were warned about Weinstein’s history of preying on young actresses and models, and it is hard to believe that these reports failed to make it in front of the Clintons.
Magazine editor Tina Brown told “a member of Mrs. Clinton’s inner circle” during the 2008 presidential primary race that Weinstein had a disgusting reputation for mistreating women.
In an email to the Times, she remembered her advice for Clinton:
I was hearing that Harvey’s sleaziness with women had escalated since I left Talk in 2002 and she was unwise to be so closely associated with him.
Actress and outspoken liberal activist Lena Dunham was the next to warn the Clinton campaign, this time in 2016. Addressing Clinton deputy communications director Kristina Shake, Dunham said bluntly:
I just want you to let you know that Harvey’s a rapist and this is going to come out at some point. I think it’s a really bad idea for him to host fundraisers and be involved because it’s an open secret in Hollywood that he has a problem with sexual assault.
Though Shake promised to tell campaign manager Robby Mook, Dunham recalls thinking that the campaign was ignoring her words of caution. This prompted Dunham to share her account with Adrienne Elrod, a spokeswoman and celebrity liaison for Mrs. Clinton, as the summer 2016 Democratic National Conventions was fast approaching.
Clinton communications director Nick Merrill denies the claims by Dunham and Brown, insisting that if any staff were notified of Weinstein’s behavior that specific action would have followed:
We were shocked when we learned what he’d done. It’s despicable behavior, and the women that have come forward have shown enormous courage. As to claims about a warning, that’s something staff wouldn’t forget.
Regarding Dunham’s charges, Merrill coolly insinuated that the actress should have brought her claims to someone else.
“Only [Dunham] can answer why she would tell them instead of those who could stop him,” he said, as if informing Mrs. Clinton’s deputy communications director and her spokeswoman was somehow insufficient.
Although it is unclear if these reports ever filtered up to Bill or Hillary, they certainly had little incentive to act on them. Perhaps Weinstein felt sympathy for a fellow predator when he sent President Clinton $10,000 to handle legal expenses in his infamous Monica Lewinsky impeachment proceedings.
Weinstein also acted as a fundraiser and adviser to Hillary Clinton during her 2000 bid for the Senate. He was close enough to the future Secretary of State to be included among her guests during her Senate victory party, and he continued supporting Hillary throughout her failed presidential bids. The Times concluded:
Mr. Weinstein’s political activity — he provided consistent support for Mr. Obama as well — boosted his image as a man with friends in high places and close ties to the country’s leading female politician.
Indeed, after days of silence in the immediate aftermath of the Weinstein exposé, Hillary finally clarified that she was “shocked and appalled” by her supporter’s actions.
However, this delayed reaction came only after pressure from Republicans. Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel released a statement days before Clinton’s own response calling for the DNC to condemn Weinstein and return any of his outstanding campaign donations:
During three decades’ worth of sexual harassment allegations, Harvey Weinstein lined the pockets of Democrats to the tune of three-quarters of a million dollars. 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.
Perhaps women were disarmed by the elitist friends Weinstein kept. After all, who was going to believe that a man who is attached to feminine causes would perpetrate these offenses?
“I am a man who has great resources,” Weinstein warned the Times for breaking the story that encouraged so many other victims to come forward. Sadly, he’s right: men with fewer resources than Weinstein would have been outed long ago for similar behavior.
Yet, the Hollywood mastermind’s most effective connections were not the brutes which he employed to silence a curious reporter or intimidate an assertive victim.
Weinstein needed to be trusted — adored even — by the very women he attacked, and what better way to accomplish this than to position himself as their guardian and advocate. And what better way to ensure his place than by ingratiating himself with the powerful Clintons, who were not likely to scrutinize his womanizing too closely.
Weinstein is the subject of criminal cases in New York, London and Los Angeles. The producer is reportedly the subject of several civil suits made by women in the UK and the US.
A spokesperson for Weinstein says that the producer denies “any allegations of non-consensual sex” made against him.