When Hillary Clinton finally bestirred herself to make a few remarks in response to published reports of the abuse of women by her old pal Harvey Weinstein, it was as if she had suddenly discovered gambling at Rick's Cafe — she was shocked, shocked!
A lot of Hollywood insiders and Democratic glitterati (but I repeat myself), who benefited from the movie mogul's political contributions and other forms of patronage are now having similar epiphanies. Meryl Steep's belated response to the revelations — she spoke out nearly a week later — seemed dedicated to establishing her own ignorance of Weinstein's transgressions more than anything else.
One Democratic pundit who appeared on Fox News this week deserves high marks in creativity for her ingenious attempt to distance Clinton from Weinstein, who raised millions of dollars for her presidential campaign and donated between $100,000 and $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation: Clinton could not possibly have known, the pundit opined, because Clinton and Weinstein live 3,000 miles apart. Except, of course, when Weinstein is her neighbor in the Hamptons or when he threw a glittery fundraiser for Clinton in his Manhattan apartment (co-hosted by Conde Nast honcho Anna Wintour, who, refreshingly, hasn't yet issued a statement of shock and ignorance, possibly because the hardnosed Wintour realizes just how little these protestations are believed by the public).
Feigned shock aside, Weinstein's conduct was an open secret in their circles. Thus, the fallout won't be limited to the monstrous mogul himself. In particular, the scandal has the potential to clarify what our Democratic Party elites really think about women.
For example, Democrats vociferously allege Republicans are waging a "war on women." So, if one of their own is humiliating and exploiting women, they take prompt action to stop the abuse, right?
Well, not quite.
Here's what actually happens: In 2004, Sharon Waxman, a new reporter at the New York Times, writes that she "got the green light to look into oft-repeated allegations of sexual misconduct by Weinstein. It was believed that many occurred in Europe during festivals and other business trips there."
Waxman found a man she believed was a sexual procurer for Weinstein. Waxman writes that Matt Damon and Russell Crowe, both of whom have starred in Weinstein movies, contacted her directly to try to kill the story. A big advertiser at the New York Times, Weinstein paid a visit to the newspaper and made his displeasure clear. The resulting story was "stripped of any hint of sexual coercion or favors" and practically hidden on an inside page as a story about the firing of an unknown executive at Weinstein's Miramax company.
You won't be surprised to hear that Damon is also having an epiphany: Nearly a week after the abuse story broke, Damon professed himself "sick to my stomach" over the accusations against Weinstein. Now he tells us.
Speaking to Deadline Hollywood, Damon says that the call remembered by Waxman was just a one-minute conversation and not an attempt to kill a story. Damon says Weinstein asked him to call Waxman and tell her that Fabrizio Lombardo, who Waxman believed to be Weinstein's procurer, was a nice guy.
Damon is unconvincing. Jim Rutenberg explains in the New York Times why people in Hollywood and New York didn't talk. "The real story [about Weinstein] didn't surface until now because too few people in the intertwined news and entertainment industries had too much to gain from Mr. Weinstein for too long."
That's true as far as it goes, but incomplete — it must further be stated that these people are leaders in the most vocally feminist segment of the population. But nobody appears to have tried to intervene on behalf of the women being abused and humiliated by Weinstein. So, there is only one conclusion to be drawn: They don't really care about women as individuals, but rather as a political tool. If feminism were more than a pose for these people, Weinstein would have been stopped years ago.
The Democrats are fond of demonizing Republicans as women-haters for good reason: Their political fortunes rely on turning women away from alternatives to the Democratic standard-bearer. Women are slightly more than half the electorate — the figure is around 53 percent. Democrats need, and usually get, a majority of their votes. President Barack Obama wouldn't have had a second term if not for female voters. Hillary Clinton got 54 percent of the women's vote, and if she hadn't won women handily, the election wouldn't have even been close.
But just as Weinstein's public image as a good liberal was at odds with his actual treatment of women, the policies that Democrats champion under the banner of helping women often aren't how they work with real people.
Meryl Streep will never lose her job because of a hike in the minimum wage, but many less fortunate women have. Hollywood celebrities can pay to have their own children opt out of dangerous public schools, but other Americans are stuck with them thanks to Democratic opposition to school choice. New York City A-listers don't have to worry about the steady climb in their health insurance premiums, but women in Middle America do. Many women, particularly those women in urban centers where Democrats have had complete control, may rethink whether the Democratic leadership really has the average woman's best interests at heart.
Weinstein has had such success because, in addition to being a ruthless businessman, he had a knack for recognizing what stories would make movies attact audiences. And that's what Democrats have to fear.
Weinstein's is the story of more than one dirty, rotten creep who abused women, but of an elitist culture that uses women's rights as a political prop — a culture that stood by, protected, and even celebrated a man they knew victimized women.
Lee Smith has suggested in the Weekly Standard that the story is only coming out now for two reasons. First, that Clinton didn't win the election, thus the media-political culture she dominated is less powerful. Second, because it was Ronan Farrow, who is entertainment royalty as the son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen, who pursued the story, which appeared in the New Yorker (the New York Times broke the story but Farrow's report was more in-depth). Farrow was possibly motivated because of a family beef with Weinstein.
The stench is unlikely to go away any time soon. Hollywood is endlessly fascinating, and this story has staying power.
If Harvey Weinstein weren't ruined, he could probably make a blockbuster movie out of it.
Charlotte Hays is senior editor and director of cultural programs at the Independent Women's Forum.
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