Casino owner Steve Wynn would not say Friday whether he planned to resign from his role as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee after a report detailing decades of alleged sexual misconduct, The Washington Post reported Friday.
The onetime business rival of Donald Trump was a supporter of the president’s 2016 campaign before taking on a leadership role in the Republican Party. He was also a vice chair of Trump's inauguration committee.
The Wall Street Journal report included interviews with dozens of people who have worked at Wynn’s casinos or had been told of his alleged behavior, including allegations that he pressured some employees to perform sex acts.
Wynn denied the accusations.
“The idea that I ever assaulted any woman is preposterous,” Wynn said in a statement. “We find ourselves in a world where people can make allegations, regardless of the truth, and a person is left with the choice of weathering insulting publicity or engaging in multiyear lawsuits. It is deplorable for anyone to find themselves in this situation.”
Wynn isn't just an RNC official; he's also a big donor. He has given more than $1.5 million to various Republican Party committees and candidates in the past five years, with a donation of more than $450,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee in the 2016 cycle, The Post's Ed O'Keefe reported. He's also made smaller donations to Democrats.
If the story of a well-connected political donor accused of sexual harassment sounds familiar, that's because it is.
After allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein surfaced, GOP leaders and lawmakers called on the Democratic National Committee to return contributions he made to Hillary Clinton's campaign.
But as of now, there's been no word on whether the RNC will return Wynn's donations or ask him to step down from the leadership position.
Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet, a women’s advocacy organization, called on the RNC to end its relationship with Wynn:
Steve Wynn needs to go. He is a predator of the worst kind who used his position of power to sexually coerce his female employees. It is sadly no surprise that he keeps company with people like Donald Trump — a man who follows the same playbook of sexual abuse.
The Republican National Committee, where Wynn serves as finance chair, must also immediately cut ties with Wynn.
Whether Wynn admits or apologizes for any wrongdoing, some expect that he'll face no real consequences for the allegations, at least from the Republican Party.
“The RNC will feel no embarrassment about having Steve Wynn as their finance chair because there’s no *hypocrisy* involved when prominent Republicans are sexual harassers,” Vox co-founder Matthew Yglesias tweeted Friday.
Others betting that sexual assault allegations won't lead the GOP to distance itself from Wynn are pointing to recent history to justify their position. While Democratic lawmakers have called on their own to resign, that has not been the recent standard in the GOP.
In the past, it was not uncommon for conservatives — particularly evangelical leaders — to claim that politicians caught in sexual misconduct scandals were unfit for office. But in the age of Trump, who openly bragged about grabbing women's genitals, something seems to have shifted. Sexual assault allegations are no longer a dealbreaker, The Fix's Aaron Blake reported.
We saw that when Republican Roy Moore, the Senate candidate in Alabama who was accused of sexual contact with teenage girls, stayed in the race before ultimately losing to Doug Jones. As Trump called on Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to resign over misconduct allegations, he endorsed Moore — as did the RNC.
But it doesn't mean those on the right don't see the issue. The overwhelming majority — 74 percent — of Republicans said sexual harassment of women in the workplace is a problem, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll this month.
But sexual misconduct in the workplace may not be a watershed issue for GOP leaders to separate themselves from accused lawmakers and prominent donors. And that may be the case with Wynn.