by GABRIEL DEBENEDETTI · October 11, 2017
“I was shocked and appalled by the revelations about Harvey Weinstein,” Hillary Clinton said in a statement, distancing herself from the man who brought her 2016 presidential campaign over $1.4 million. | Larry Busacca/Getty Images for TIME
It took nearly a week, but leading Democrats hope they’ve done enough to wash their hands of politically uncomfortable ties to Harvey Weinstein. But Republicans aren’t letting go just yet.
The Democratic Party’s recent days have been punctuated by a flurry of statements condemning the Hollywood fixture — for years a high-profile fundraiser for leading Democrats — and a flood of promises to send years’ worth of donations to charity from nearly every prominent lawmaker to receive Weinstein’s backing in the past. By Wednesday, each high-profile Democrat to receive money from Weinstein had made plans to direct it elsewhere, aside from recent retirees like former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — who still denounced him.
But even as top Democratic lawmakers pledged to donate the cash they’d gotten from Weinstein, the Democratic National Committee itself stopped short of promising a full giveaway. The committee pledged “over $30,000″ of Weinstein donations to political groups that work to elect women.
The only problem? The DNC had raised over $300,000 from Weinstein, a fact Republicans have been quick to exploit.
“They’re keeping 90 percent of his donations; I don’t understand,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel told CNN. “If you stand for treating women well and you stand for the respect of women, you shouldn’t take money from somebody who treated women with the absolute highest level of disrespect.”
The DNC, which has struggled to raise money recently, has not responded to a request for comment.
Still, after a few days of excruciating silence in response to the initial New York Times report and subsequent investigations from the Times and The New Yorker detailing countless accusations of sexual assaults or advances, the frustrated outpouring from elected Democrats reflected the party’s discomfort. It was a situation to which Democrats have not recently been accustomed, after all: They found themselves under unrelenting fire from Republicans for ties to Weinstein that were deep and undeniable.
“Michelle and I have been disgusted by the recent reports about Harvey Weinstein. Any man who demeans and degrades women in such fashion needs to be condemned and held accountable, regardless of wealth or status,” Obama said Tuesday, after five days of pressure to condemn Weinstein, who had bundled over $600,000 for him in 2012, according to federal campaign reports.
“I was shocked and appalled by the revelations about Harvey Weinstein. The behavior described by women coming forward cannot be tolerated,” Clinton added in a statement of her own, distancing herself from the man who brought her 2016 presidential campaign over $1.4 million. On Wednesday, Clinton appeared on CNN and pledged to donate the money received from Weinstein to charity.
At a time that Democrats were hoping to be pushing back against President Donald Trump’s tax push and enflaming tensions between Republican senators and the White House, the party’s leaders instead were forced to fend off repeated questions about their relationships with the man each was quick to condemn.
While the retired Clinton and Obama took until Tuesday to weigh in, it didn’t take as long for active Democrats to speak out against Weinstein. Leading Republicans were nonetheless even quicker to tie the onetime California power broker to the party’s leading lawmakers.
“During three decades’ worth of sexual harassment allegations, Harvey Weinstein lined the pockets of Democrats to the tune of three-quarters of a million dollars,” the RNC’s McDaniel said in a statement last week. “If Democrats and the DNC truly stand up for women like they say they do, then returning this dirty money should be a no brainer.”
Donald Trump Jr. tweeted repeatedly about Weinstein after the first story broke, urging Democrats to disavow their donor.
“It took Hillary abt 5 minutes to blame NRA for madman’s rampage, but 5 days to sorta-kinda blame Harvey Weinstein 4 his sexually [sic] assaults,” chimed in White House adviser Kellyanne Conway on Twitter on Tuesday.
The questions didn’t let up for Democrats after the holiday weekend.
“Any leader should condemn this,” Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Clinton’s 2016 running mate, told CNN on Tuesday morning in response to questions about Weinstein. “These allegations are low-life behavior.”
All the while, many in the party privately fumed as GOP officials amped up the pressure on them to return campaign cash from the former studio head, furious that Republicans would make this an issue considering the multiple sexual harassment allegations against Trump himself.
By the middle of this week, however, leading Democrats and party groups said they would donate as much money as they had received from Weinstein to charities, many dealing with sexual and domestic violence. That included senators such as Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Sens. Al Franken of Minnesota, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
But the Democratic National Committee itself said it would give a portion of the money it had received to political groups that work to elect women, raising further GOP eyebrows and hardly putting the story to rest.
Weinstein had positioned himself as close to a number of party leaders — Malia Obama interned at The Weinstein Co. in 2016 — and at least six of the recipients of his money are potential 2020 presidential candidates.
But by Wednesday each member of that group — But by Wednesday five members of that group — Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California, and Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia — had pledged to send the money to charity. The campaign of the sixth, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, said it would donate $50,000 to an unspecified women’s charity. Cuomo, who had raised $110,400 from Weinstein or his company since 1999, will hang on to the remainder of the money, a decision criticized by Republicans.
Cristiano Lima contributed to this report.