A fuller picture of Harvey Weinstein's alleged appalling conduct with women over the years is coming into focus now, thanks to an extensive piece from the New Yorker that builds upon last week's blockbuster from the New York Times. Ronan Farrow reports that 13 women told him that Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them. Three say he raped them. And Farrow obtained one recording in which Weinstein appears to admit to groping a model.
It's all extraordinarily hard to read (and listen to), and it's got plenty of big-name Democrats donating to charity the money spread around by Weinstein, a the top Democratic donor and fundraiser.
There are a couple big exceptions, though: Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. And both are handling the situation in rather puzzling ways.
Clinton weighed in on the controversy for the first time Tuesday — five days after the story first broke — in a statement via her spokesman that did not address whether she would donate money. In the statement, which Clinton retweeted, she said she was “shocked and appalled by the revelations about Harvey Weinstein.”
The statement came shortly after her 2008 presidential campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, said Monday that it was “disappointing that [Clinton] hasn't come out and condemned Harvey Weinstein.”
The DNC, meanwhile, announced last week that it would donate $30,000 it had received from Weinstein — out of $300,000 he donated to it over the years. But rather than donate the money to charity, the DNC said it would send it to groups that elect women.
I'll admit right here that this whole returning-tarnished-money exercise can be tiresome. It becomes one giant exercise in comparing what Democrats are doing now to what Republicans did way back when, and vice versa. A lot of times we're talking about a few thousand dollars out of millions raised. And in this particular case, you have a Republican president who has been accused by multiple women of unwanted sexual advances. The GOP taking the moral high ground here is, well, fraught.
But both Clinton and the DNC are doing it wrong. And that's for one main reason: This story will only get worse and drag on — and on and on.
The DNC's response is a real head-scratcher. Two of the three groups it chose to donate to — Emily's List and Emerge America — expressly support Democratic candidates. The third, Higher Heights, is technically nonpartisan, but since it supports African American women running for office, you can bet that the vast majority of that money will help Democrats.
DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa defended the decision by arguing that trying to elect more women is an appropriate response to the Weinstein situation, “because we clearly need more women making decisions and in power rather than men like Trump and others who continue to launch attacks on women.”
Emily's List confirmed to The Post that it would keep Weinstein's money and echoed the DNC. Spokeswoman Julie McClain Downey said: “Emily's List plans to continue our work to elect more women to positions of leadership so no woman has to endure sexual harassment at the hands of a powerful man again.”
It's understandable why the DNC wouldn't be donating the full $300,000; after all, right now that would constitute more than one-tenth of its net funds (i.e., cash on hand minus debt), which stood at just $2.8 million at the end of August. The DNC has had money problems for years, and it's basically bleeding cash right now.
But donating the money to other Democratic groups is a particularly bold strategy. The DNC might as well have just set it aside and said it would reserve that money only for the many female candidates it supports. Of course, we'd never know the difference. As it stands, though, Weinstein's money is basically going to the same cause as he intended — just more narrowly focused on female Democratic candidates.
Clinton's decision not to donate is probably more justifiable, given that the campaign is over. But she also only took $5,000 from Weinstein in her last campaign, she's still got $1 million in the bank, and that amount of money is a pittance to the uber-wealthy Clintons. Why not just do what other Democrats are doing and unload it? Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said Monday on CNN: “I think any of us who received donations should [donate them to charity] and use it to support the cause of combating sexual harassment.”
This will not be the last time Weinstein is in the news. The best course is to get as far away from his mess as possible, and plenty of Democrats are acknowledging that and urging their colleagues to do the same. This is no time for half-measures, but that's exactly what Clinton and the DNC are providing. It may not wind up biting them, but why even take the chance?