Democrats, Liberals Used to Love Harvey Weinstein

Some have now reversed course, others remain silent

Sen. Chuck Schumer and Harvey Weinstein
Sen. Chuck Schumer and Harvey Weinstein / Getty Images
October 10, 2017

Democrats and liberal celebrities used to admire and praise Hollywood mogul and Democratic mega-donor Harvey Weinstein, but they have been distancing themselves from him after allegations emerged last week that he had settled sexual harassment claims with at least eight different women over the span of nearly three decades.

The New York Times reported last Thursday that Weinstein has been accused of sexually harassing at least eight women, including actresses Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan. The report sparked outrage among some Hollywood celebrities and Democratic leaders, and led to surprising silence from others who have previously spoken out for women, particularly victims of sexual assault.

As one of Hollywood's most prominent executives, Weinstein exhibited influence over the film industry and had powerful sway in determining which actors and actresses would be cast in movies he produced, which included Pulp Fiction, Gangs of New York, Silver Linings Playbook, Shakespeare in Love, Good Will Hunting, and other Academy Award winners.

Actors Ben Affleck and Matt Damon in 1998 appeared together onstage during the 70th Annual Academy Awards, where Affleck thanked Weinstein for "believing" in them after they won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting.

Nineteen years later, Affleck spoke out against Weinstein in a Facebook post on Tuesday, saying that he was "saddened and angry" that the film producer would use his position of power to intimidate and sexually harass women. McGowan on Tuesday accused Affleck of lying on Facebook, saying that he already was aware of Weinstein's conduct.

Damon pushed back on Tuesday against Waxman's accusation that he tried to kill her Weinstein story back in 2004. He said that he recollected Weinstein telling him that Waxman was writing a negative story about Miramax executive Fabrizio Lombardo, not Weinstein himself, so Damon said he made the call. He went on to say that he is "so deeply sorry" if he was at an event with Weinstein and didn't see him sexually harassing women, adding that he "would have stopped" Weinstein had he witnessed it.

Several Hollywood men have been silent on the allegations, including Robert de Niro, who last year worked on a boxing movie distributed by the Weinstein Company and said he was working with Weinstein on a documentary. Another celebrity who has been silent is rapper and entrepreneur Jay Z, who has been collaborating with Weinstein over the past year on producing a documentary series on Trayvon Martin, based on the book written by Weinstein's former adviser, Lisa Bloom.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Russell Crowe, Colin Firth, Michael Moore, and many other men have also remained silent in the wake of the sexual assault allegations after previously praising him.

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow thanked Weinstein during the 1999 Academy Awards show after she won an Oscar for Best Actress in Shakespeare in Love. Unbeknown to several Hollywood celebrities in the crowd that night, Paltrow had been sexually harassed by the man that she was thanking during the awards show, according to a Times profile piece that was published on Tuesday.

While Paltrow told a few friends and family, including her boyfriend at the time, Brad Pitt, who later confronted Weinstein and told him never to touch her again, the actress felt that she had to suppress her experience—like many other young actresses. Pulp Fiction star Rosanna Arquette, French actress Judith Godrèche, and Angelina Jolie also told the Times that Weinstein made unwanted sexual advances on them during the 1990s.

Silver Linings Playbook actress Jennifer Lawrence jokingly thanked Weinstein for "killing" whoever he had to kill to get her onstage to win Best Actress in a comedy or musical during the Golden Globes Awards show in 2013. However, she spoke out against him on Monday, saying that she was "deeply disturbed" by the allegations. Lawrence added that she never experienced any sexual harassment personally, but wanted to thank the women for "their bravery to come forward."

Meryl Streep, who won an Academy Award for The Iron Lady, also had to walk back her praise for Weinstein from her acceptance speech at the 2012 Golden Globes, where she referred to him as "God." Streep released a statement on Monday in which she called the harassment accusations "disgraceful" and said that Weinstein "appalled those of us whose work he championed, and those whose good and worthy causes he supported."

Several other high-profile women from Hollywood spoke out against Weinstein and defended the accusers after last week's Times report, including Amber Tamblyn, Olivia Munn, Lena Dunham, Jessica Chastain, Rosie O'Donnell, Glenn Close, and other actresses.

Weinstein has also received backlash from Democratic politicians, many of whom accepted donations from him for years. Some Democrats have donated that money to various charities supporting women in the last few days after the allegations went public.

Weinstein donated nearly $600,000 to Democrats since the early 2000s, according to the Washington Free Beacon.

Sens. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) has received $14,200 from Weinstein since the early 2000's; Cory Booker (D., NJ) has taken $7,800; Kirsten Gillibrand (D., NY) was given $11,800; Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.) $5,600; Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn. ) $5,400;  Al Franken (D., Minn.) $10,000; Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) $5,000 ; Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) $1,000; Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I. ) $1,000; and Martin Heinrich (D., NM), who has received $5,400 from Weinstein just this year.

Weinstein has contributed six-figure sums to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). Weinstein has given more than $100,000 to the DNC while tens of thousands of dollars have gone to the DSCC.

Since the Times report last week, several prominent Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Schumer and at least six Senate colleagues, have made donations to women's charities to offset the donations that Weinstein gave to their campaigns.

Democratic Sens. Blumenthal and Chris Murphy (Conn.) both voiced their concerns over the "truly awful things" that Weinstein had done and encouraged Democrats to give their donations from Weinstein to charities that combat sexual assault.

Weinstein was also a major donor and bundler to the failed presidential campaigns of Hilary Clinton and two-term former president Barack Obama. Weinstein hosted multiple fundraisers for Clinton during her 2016 campaign and donated more than $30,000 to the Hillary Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee between Clinton's campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and more than 30 state Democratic parties. He has also given at least $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation.

Clinton was silent on the Weinstein scandal until Tuesday, five days after the Times story was published, causing CNN and other news networks to criticize her for not condemning Weinstein's behavior after talking about women's rights on the campaign trail. Clinton released a statement through her spokesman, Nick Merrill, in which she said that she was "shocked and appalled" by the revelations, but there was no mention of returning the money that he had donated to her.

Obama and the former first lady released a joint statement on Tuesday evening condemning Weinstein's behavior, in which they said they were "disgusted" by the reports of their former donor and bundler. They went on to say that "any man who demeans and degrades women in such fashion needs to be condemned and held accountable, regardless of wealth or status." Obama did not mention in the statement whether he would be donating the money that he received from Weinstein to charities benefitting women who have been sexually assaulted.

Obama's oldest daughter, Malia, interned for Weinstein over the summer at the Weinstein Company.

Several former Obama administration officials castigated Weinstein on Twitter after the Times report came out, despite their one-time boss's silence. Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau called Weinstein "a monstrous piece of shit," while another Obama speechwriter, Jon Lovett, said "there should be congressional hearings on Weinstein, Miramax, and the Weinstein Company." Obama's former National Security Council spokesman, Tommy Vietor‏, wrote that Weinstein "has been a well-known scumbag for a long time."

UPDATED 8:27 P.M.: This post was updated to include statements by Matt Damon and Barack and Michelle Obama.