by Jeremy Fassler
Yesterday, Miramax/The Weinstein Company co-founder Harvey Weinstein was fired effective immediately following the New York Times’ report documenting the multiple allegations of sexual harassment against women and the years of cover-ups. It is the most high-profile of the many stories that have broken in the last month concerning sexual harassment in Hollywood and the film community at large, but much of the coverage surrounding it has been dominated by his history of donations to the Democratic Party, and requisite demands that the politicians he donated to, like Hillary Clinton, denounce him. Some have even tried to paint him as the Democrats’ biggest problem and this has led to a series of terrible takes and false equivalencies that vastly overestimate Weinstein’s influence within the party.
The timing of these comparisons is fortuitous: this is the one-year-anniversary of The Washington Post’s leaking the tape where Donald Trump admitted to committing sexual assault, which, in a perfect world, would have ended his political career. Instead, he and his party pivoted to blaming the Democrats, dismissing his graphic remarks as “locker room talk,” and inviting the women who claim Bill Clinton abused them to the debate the next night, forcing our side into a corner when they should’ve been backed into one with no escape route. Now we’re seeing it happen once again – Republicans shaming Democrats as “hypocrites” to distract from their own hypocrisy:
Whose side is Hillary Clinton on: Harvey Weinstein’s or his victims?
— Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) October 7, 2017
Weird, Hillary has been really quiet about Harvey Weinstein. You would think she would be all Over this. #WhatHappened?
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) October 7, 2017
So Trump is the Monster but Harvey Weinstein isn’t? Does he give you the “creeps” Hillary? pic.twitter.com/wsoAEpeHk8
— JSZUNDEL (@ScottZundel) October 5, 2017
And since liberals receive far more shame in the media for showing their true colors than Republicans (seriously, how did “Soros” become a pejorative when the Koch Brothers want to bankroll a rewrite of the Constitution?), this has led to argument about Democratic hypocrisy. I wrote on Friday about Chris Cillizza’s heinous effort to do just that, but he’s not the only person to write such screeds. In an article in The Daily Beast titled “Yes, Hillary—and the Democrats—Do Have a Harvey Weinstein Problem,” Keli Goff wrote of the RNC’s recent attempts to tie Weinstein to the Democrats in their advertising:
“The move…was savvy, because what the RNC clearly knows that some Democrats don’t is that Harvey Weinstein and men like him have already helped the GOP. In fact, Harvey Weinstein serves as the perfect symbol of why Hillary Clinton failed to defeat a candidate many of us had presumed was laughably beatable…[his] growing scandal represents yet another instance of liberal hypocrisy on issues liberals relentlessly criticize conservatives on.”
The Daily Beast’s article, while far removed from the clickbait of Cillizza’s, still tried to make Weinstein an avatar for all the reasons Democrats still can’t defeat Republicans, going for a cheap comparison over any analysis of the real reasons Hillary lost (Russia, Russia, Russia.)
A low blow came from former New York Times opinion writer and current New York Magazine correspondent Frank Rich, who used this opportunity to punch down at the former First Family:
Biggest mystery of @nytimes Weinstein story: How exemplary parents like Obamas let their daughter work there. The stories were out there.
— Frank Rich (@frankrichny) October 6, 2017
The above is true – Malia did intern at The Weinstein Company – but what does she have to do with the mogul’s behavior? Why should a young girl like her be forced to answer for acts that she was not a witness to, some of which date back to before she was even born? It is the cheapest of cheap shots, playing back into the popular and cynical “well, everybody knew” narrative, which assumes that everyone in show business has dirt on everyone else and ignores the many layers of cover-ups and BS that muddies the truth.
Worst of all was Matt Yglesias of Vox, who tweeted this yesterday:
I’m afraid Democrats’ fundraising from sexual predators problem goes beyond Weinstein. pic.twitter.com/ie6AS4qSjM
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) October 8, 2017
The responses to this tweet are vicious and well-deserved, as Yglesias, like Rich and The Daily Beast, is playing into Republicans’ hands by blowing this up into a major “issue,” a’la the Trump Access Hollywood tape, when the two should not be equated. For one, Weinstein is a producer who was just fired by his company yesterday, and Donald Trump is the leader of the free world whose party has, for the most part, stood by him. To blame Hillary Clinton for associating with Weinstein is irrelevant to this situation, as is blaming the many actresses who have appeared in his movies. As Mark Harris said:
Number of women who owe you a statement about Harvey Weinstein: 0
Number of characters you should use to assess those who make statements: 0
— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) October 9, 2017
But there’s another reason that Weinstein, and his role in the Democratic Party, shouldn’t be equated with the President, his fellow Republicans, or their donors: in an era where politicians seek out big donor money on a regular basis, Weinstein is the guppy in the shark tank.
Business Insider released an interactive piece charting his donations since the 2000 election, and it amounts to…two million dollars. That’s right: $2,317,056 to be exact, and you only cross the one million dollar line if you combine his bundled donations with his personal donations. Take out the bundled ones, and his personal donations are…$894,373. At this rate, he couldn’t even compete with Dr. Evil.
What’s more, the amount of money Weinstein donated to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election is only $26,832. By contrast, he donated $28,000 to John Kerry, and $36,000 to former Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut. Yes, Chris Dodd got more money than Hillary Clinton. In this Open Secrets list of Federal Election Contributions last year, Weinstein doesn’t even crack their top 100. He’s even behind in liberal Hollywood, not making this Hollywood Reporter top ten donors list:
Let the record show that Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy, outspent Harvey Weinstein by a ratio of 26 to 1.
Tying Weinstein to the Democratic Party is a red herring that ignores the meat of this story: that his abuse was allowed to go on for so long. Equating him to Trump does not grapple with the issues that allow men like them to rise to power in the first place. Hollywood, and the media, must use this moment to create fair and strict rules against harassment that allow women to enter the workforce and rise to their full potential without fear of abuse, and not become bogged in clickbait that squanders our opportunity to make sure behavior like his, and our President’s, no longer goes unpunished.