Harvey Weinstein's alleged pattern of sexual harassment was apparently an open secret in Hollywood for decades. But the rest of us know about it because the New York Times's Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey exposed it last week.
Twohey's byline appeared last year on a similar Times report about President Trump's history with women.
The liberal New Yorker magazine is reportedly working on its own exposé about Weinstein, a longtime Democratic donor who presents himself as a champion of progressive causes.
New York magazine, which was at the forefront of covering sexual harassment accusations against Roger Ailes and Fox News in 2016, also pursued claims about Weinstein last year but “couldn't get the story to the point where we had sufficient confirmation and sourcing to publish,” a spokeswoman told Page Six.
Hollywood Reporter editor at large Kim Masters told NPR on Friday that “many of us have tried, literally over the course of the last couple of decades,” to nail down the Weinstein story.
A report such as the one authored by Kantor and Twohey is difficult to publish because a rich, powerful figure such as Weinstein has the ability to a) intimidate his alleged victims into silence and b) drag a news outlet through an expensive lawsuit. An attorney for Weinstein has said he is, indeed, preparing a case against the Times.
Yet the outlets that tried to put Weinstein's alleged misconduct in print — and the one that ultimately did, despite the challenge and the risk — are often derided by conservatives for supposedly applying different standards to the political left and right.
It wasn't Breitbart News — which has a former Hollywood producer, Stephen K. Bannon, as its chairman, an entire section of its website devoted to “Big Hollywood,” and the backing of billionaire investor Robert Mercer — that broke the Weinstein story. It was the “failing” New York Times.
This reporting reality complicates the double-standard narrative advanced by some conservatives, who point to the absence of critical commentary by late-night comedians, many actors and “Saturday Night Live” as evidence that the media is insufficiently outraged by Weinstein's alleged behavior.
Is it possible that some entertainers have remained mum because they like Weinstein's politics? Sure. It is also possible that the fear of Weinstein, which compelled so many in his industry to keep their mouths shut for decades, did not vanish in an instant.
That is not to say that the likes of SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels deserve a pass for holding their fire on Weinstein. It is to say that politics might not be the only (or even the leading) reason.
The Weinstein story is a reminder that it can be overly simplistic to look at “the media” as a monolith, as if the news and entertainment sides are governed by the same ethos. Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel might be politically outspoken, at times, but if we are looking to them “to give the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved,” then we are looking in the wrong place.
That is a Times motto, in case you did not recognize it. The paper lived up to it on the Weinstein report.