New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's (D.) gubernatorial campaign announced on Thursday it will reverse its previous decision to only return Harvey Weinstein's most recent campaign donations, and will now donate all of Weinstein's previous donations to charities.
The New York Times reported last Thursday that Weinstein, a Hollywood mogul and Democratic mega-donor, has been accused of sexually harassing at least eight women over the years, including actresses Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan. The report sparked outrage among some Hollywood celebrities and Democratic leaders, and led to surprising silence or delayed responses from others who had previously spoken out for women, particularly victims of sexual assault.
Cuomo's campaign had received more than $110,000 from Weinstein since 2000 and initially announced last Friday it would donate the $50,000 received for the 2018 election cycle to yet-to-be-determined women's rights organizations, according to his campaign chairman William Mulrow, who called Weinstein's allegations "horrid" and "disturbing." However, the campaign received mounting pressure when New York's Republican State Committee said Cuomo was "in the dictionary next to the word ‘hypocrisy'" for not giving back all of Weinstein's donations.
"Democrats across the country have had the sense to give the money back, but not Gov. Cuomo. What kind of message does it send to women and victims that despite everything we know about the abuse Harvey Weinstein inflicted on them, he still won't let go of his $60,000? His actions speak volumes," Republican State Committee spokeswoman Jessica Proud wrote.
Basil A. Smikle Jr., the executive director of New York's Democratic State Committee, initially responded to the attack by claiming "money from past cycles was spent in that cycle and is no longer there." However, he backtracked on Thursday in a statement released on behalf of Cuomo's campaign, the New York Times reported.
Smickle first clarified that the campaign in no way condoned Weinstein's behavior, and called the allegations against him "horrid."
"The allegations against Harvey Weinstein are disturbing, horrid and the debate should be on how to best root out this reprehensible behavior and protect women from harassment and abuse," Smikle said.
He said, as a result, the campaign would take the "extraordinary step" to return all campaign contributions from Weinstein, the New York Post reported.
"It’s shameful that some have sought to use this matter to score political points, but the real issues are far too serious to allow any distraction to overtake them," Smikle continued. "For that reason, the extraordinary step will be taken of giving all contributions from prior campaigns whose committees have been closed for years so that we can dispense with the Republican ploys and focus on the real issues."
Sens. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), as well as State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D., N.Y.), have all pledged to donate their campaign contributions from Weinstein to women's charities.