In the wake of a New York Times report alleging he engaged in decades of sexual harassment against women, top Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein apologized on Thursday for his past behavior. Weinstein denied parts of the Times report, but ultimately conceded "his behavior with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain." Not long after the report was published, however, celebrities and journalists began to intimate that Weinstein's mistreatment of women was widely known throughout Hollywood.
Actress Lena Dunham referred to a "flimsy but firm veil of secrecy." In The Cut, journalist Rebecca Traister wrote, "I have been having conversations about Harvey Weinstein's history of sexual harassment for more than 17 years." Axios ran an article headlined, "Harvey Weinstein was Hollywood's biggest open secret." CNN anchor Jake Tapper reported that a Hollywood producer told him, "Shocked it's taken so long for a Harvey Weinstein behavior expose. One of the most open secrets in Hollywood."
As I documented on Thursday, Weinstein's power extended beyond Hollywood to Washington, where many prominent Democratic politicians and organizations have benefited from his financial support for decades. Weinstein fundraised hundreds of thousands of dollars for both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's presidential campaigns.
Obama met with Weinstein nine times at the White House during his presidency and even allowed his daughter to intern with the producer's company earlier this year.
In the summer of 2016, Weinstein hosted a star-studded fundraiser for Clinton's presidential campaign at his Manhattan home where an estimated $1.8 million was raised in support of her bid.
Weinstein's trail of political donations is long and his contributions benefitted many prominent Democrats. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, those lawmakers include: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Al Franken, D-Minn., Richard Bluementhal, D-Conn., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
It also includes former Sens. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Russ Feingold, D-Wis., Chris Dodd, D-Conn., Harry Reid, D-Nev., Tom Daschle, D-S.D., former Gov. Howard Dean, D-Vt., former Secretary of State John Kerry, and former President Bill Clinton.
Don't forget the hundreds of thousands of dollars Weinstein donated to the DNC, DSCC, and DCCC as well.
Given that his behavior was apparently an "open secret" in Hollywood, it's worth questioning how it's possible that none of those Democrats, who claim to be staunch supporters of women's rights, were aware of Weinstein's reputation. Hollywood and Washington are separate worlds, but politicians, and especially Democrats, travel in circles that include plenty of powerful people from the entertainment industry. It's difficult to imagine high-profile Democrats such as the Clintons, Obamas, Franken, and Schumer were ignorant of the rumblings about Weinstein's conduct towards women.
Several beneficiaries of his donations have already announced plans to return the money or donate it to charity. But how many of the Democrats to whom he contributed knew Weinstein had a reputation as a serial harasser and took his money anyway?
Emily Jashinsky is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.