Hillary Clinton, Obamas condemn longtime Democratic donor Harvey Weinstein

Posted at 9:04 PM, Oct 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-10 21:04:53-04

Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama condemned disgraced Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein on Tuesday, marking their first public comments on the matter since reports of his alleged predatory behavior broke five days ago.

“I was shocked and appalled by the revelations about Harvey Weinstein,” Clinton said in a statement through her spokesman Nick Merrill. “The behavior described by women coming forward cannot be tolerated. Their courage and the support of others is critical in helping to stop this kind of behavior.”

A statement from Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday evening similarly expressed disgust at Weinstein’s reported actions and praised those who came forward.

“Michelle and I have been disgusted by the recent reports about Harvey Weinstein,” the statement said. “Any man who demeans and degrades women in such fashion needs to be condemned and held accountable, regardless of wealth or status. We should celebrate the courage of women who have come forward to tell these painful stories. And we all need to build a culture — including by empowering our girls and teaching our boys decency and respect — so we can make such behavior less prevalent in the future.”

Both statements made no mention of Weinstein’s sizable donations to the Clinton and Obama war chests.

Shortly after the Obamas’ announcement, Democratic leadership disavowed Weinstein as well.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from Weinstein’s home state of New York, said on Twitter Tuesday evening he was sending donations from Weinstein to charities based in the state.

“What Mr. Weinstein did was awful. Sending his donations to NY orgs doing crucial work for survivors & fams, @SafeHorizon @sffny & @cvtcnyc,” Schumer tweeted.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi issued a statement calling on accountability for “every man who disrespects and attacks women.”

“The news of Harvey Weinstein’s countless assaults on women and the clear efforts to intimidate his victims into silence are shocking,” Pelosi’s statement read. “His despicable actions violate every standard of acceptable behavior.”

Weinstein is a longtime associate of the Clintons and a major Democratic Party donor who bundled funds for the party’s political campaigns, including supporting both of Clinton’s presidential bids. Weinstein was also a bundler — someone who gathers donations from others into large sums — for the Obama-Biden 2012 effort.

The allegations against Weinstein have renewed a debate about sexual harassment in the workplace and drawn attention to Clinton, the Democrats’ 2016 standard-bearer who made the treatment of women a key plank of her presidential campaign.

Representatives for the former secretary of state and former President Bill Clinton had previously not responded to requests for comment about Weinstein, whose ties to the Clintons go back years, from the Clinton presidency to the former first lady’s successful campaign for Senate.

Clinton spoke in California Monday night as part of her book tour and did not address the allegations, nor was she asked about them during the 90-minute event.

The office of former Vice President Joe Biden declined to comment.

Democrats disavow

Many Democratic office-holders quickly repudiated Weinstein, with some going so far as to send donations given by Weinstein to charity.

Clinton’s former running mate, Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, said on CNN Tuesday morning that people should condemn Weinstein and said he anticipated Clinton would say something eventually.

Kaine noted Clinton has spoken out about sexual harassment often. During the campaign, Clinton spoke out about the issue and went after President Donald Trump over the allegations of sexual assault against him. Trump pushed back by touting similar allegations against her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Early in the campaign, the former secretary of state was asked about some of those accusations and her own assertions that victims who allege assault should be believed. In the context of allegations against her husband, Clinton said, “I would say that everyone should be believed at first until they are disbelieved based on evidence.”

Clinton’s condemnation Tuesday came after years of links between the Clintons, Weinstein and the Democratic Party.

In 2015, the Clintons rented a home next to Weinstein in the Hamptons, and Weinstein served as a connector between Hollywood stars and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

Weinstein raised about $1.5 million from 1990-2016, according to data from the campaign finance-tracking Center for Responsive Politics, and was involved in fundraisers for Clinton’s effort, some of which she headlined.

Prior to Tuesday’s announcement, longtime Hillary Clinton aides were confused by the former secretary of state’s silence on the issue, questioning — in private — why she had not weighed in at all.

The Obamas’ ties with Weinstein were significant as well. Besides supporting Obama’s 2012 presidential bid as a bundler and maintaining his role in the Democratic Party, Weinstein appeared at the White House several times for formal and informal events, and the Obamas’ eldest daughter, Malia, interned at the Weinstein Company.

At a White House event for student films in 2013, first lady Michelle Obama credited Weinstein for making the event happen and praised him as a wonderful person and a good friend, and Weinstein was one of many guests at a star-studded White House birthday party for Obama in 2016.

Like Clinton, the Obamas have repeatedly addressed and condemned sexual harassment and assault.

Michelle Obama delivered a scathing speech last October, attacking Trump for having “bragged about sexually assaulting women,” in reference to the infamous Access Hollywood tape.

Bombshell allegations

A bombshell report in The New York Times detailed decades of sexual harassment by Weinstein, and just three days after its publication, Weinstein was fired by the company he founded.

On Tuesday, The New Yorker published a major story in which several women alleged sexual assault by Weinstein. Through his representative, Sallie Hofmeister, Weinstein denied “any allegations of non-consensual sex.”

The reports have put Democrats under pressure to disavow Weinstein and return or donate contributions from him to charity.

Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, for example, said in a CNN interview on Sunday that Democrats should give any money they received from Weinstein back.