The Republican National Committee is holding on to Steve Wynn's money. And in doing so, it's drawing a very fine line between his alleged misdeeds and those of Harvey Weinstein and former senator Al Franken (D-Minn.).
In an appearance on Fox News Channel on Tuesday, RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel expanded upon the committee's stance toward the casino owner. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that several employees had alleged serious and systematic sexual misconduct by Wynn, including forced sexual contact. Wynn resigned as the RNC's finance chairman, but the committee hadn't addressed giving up his money until Tuesday. That led Democrats to cry foul, noting that McDaniel and the RNC almost immediately pressed Democrats to give up the money Weinstein had donated to the DNC and offered a similar response regarding Franken.
But McDaniel argues that there's a key difference — specifically, that Weinstein and Franken accepted some culpability, while Wynn has not. Here's what she told Fox:
The allegations in the Wall Street Journal were deeply troubling. They were so troubling that, within 24 hours, Steve was no longer our finance chair. But Steve has denied these allegations. Unlike Harvey Weinstein and Al Franken and others, Steve has denied them. There is an investigation that’s going to take place. He should be allowed due process, and if he is found of any wrongdoing, we will absolutely return 100 percent of that money. But we're going to let due process take place.
Irrespective of the specifics in this case, this is a notable marker for the RNC to place. Despite Republicans and even former top RNC official Sean Spicer saying Wynn's money should be returned, the RNC says its stance is that there needs to be either an admission or an investigation before parting with an accused donor's money. Some GOP lawmakers, such as Sen. Dean Heller (Nev.), have said they will donate money their campaigns received from Wynn.
But parsing the differences between the allegations against Wynn and those against Weinstein and Franken is a fraught exercise. Yes, both Weinstein and Franken offered general apologies in the face of their allegations, but both universally denied the most serious allegations against them.
Weinstein issued a somewhat odd initial apology for causing those around him “a lot of pain,” and he entered a rehabilitation clinic for sex addiction. But his lawyers would later make clear that he denied all of the most serious allegations and basically anything criminal. They suggested he was merely guilty of “impolitic behavior.”
“Mr. Weinstein has never at any time committed an act of sexual assault,” his lawyers said, “and it is wrong and irresponsible to conflate claims of impolitic behavior or consensual sexual contact later regretted with an untrue claim of criminal conduct.”
Franken also awkwardly attempted to apologize for his behavior while casting doubt on the most serious accusations against him, including that of forcible kissing. Even as he resigned in the face of pressure from Democrats, it was 100 percent clear that he thought he had been wrongly accused.
The RNC's stance is perhaps understandable, given that the leader of the party, President Trump, has been accused of some of the same behavior that these men are. Quickly exiling Wynn would lead to questions about why the RNC didn't treat Trump the same way. For now, the committee is awaiting the results of an investigation undertaken by the Wynn Resorts board of directors. That means there could be a resolution sooner than the criminal justice process — if there even is one — would provide.
But the upshot is that the RNC believes even smaller-scale admissions and generalized apologies are apparently worthy of excommunication, while blanket denials are preferable for anyone who wants to stay in the good graces of the party.
Amber Phillips contributed to this report.