WASHINGTON — Democrats continued to distance themselves from Harvey Weinstein, a high profile donor to campaigns and groups on the left, after allegations made in an explosive New York Times report that the movie mogul serially harassed women.
Xochitl Hinojosa, the communications director for the Democratic National Committee, said the allegations were “deeply troubling.”
“The Democratic party condemns all forms of sexual harassment and assault,” she said in a statement. “We hope that Republicans will do the same as we mark one year since the release of a tape showing President Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women followed by more than a dozen women who came forward to detail similar experiences of assault and harassment.”
Hinojosa said the DNC will donate more than $30,000 in contributions from Weinstein to EMILY’s List, Emerge America, and Higher Heights “because what we need is more women in power, not men like Trump who continue to show us that they lack respect for more than half of America.”
The DNC joins a cascade of Senate Democrats who have announced that they would be donating Weinstein contributions to charity.
Earlier on Friday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he would give Weinstein’s contributions to several charities supporting women. The donations totaled $14,200.
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) will donate Weinstein’s gifts to Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, a spokesman said, including donations to Franken’s 2014 re-election campaign and to his political action committee.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is donating the $7,800 he received from Weinstein to the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) will give the $5,000 she received from Weinstein for her 2012 senate campaign to charity. BuzzFeed reported that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) also would donate Weinstein contributions to charity. Booker, Warren, and Gillibrand are frequently mentioned as contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Weinstein, the co-founder of the Weinstein Company, was a force in Democratic politics. He hosted fundraisers for Hillary Clinton’s White House bid and for Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns.
He also took part in a White House event in 2013 designed to inspire high school students who wanted to pursue careers in entertainment. First Lady Michelle Obama praised Weinstein and even quipped about his hard-charging personality.
She shared the story of how Weinstein lost an eye when he was 10 years old while playing with some friends.
“Harvey didn’t just sit around feeling sorry for himself,” she said. “He knocked on the door of a retired librarian who lived next door to him and asked for books. Now, for those of you who know Harvey, can you imagine a 10-year-old Harvey in conversation with a librarian? But from that moment on, Harvey developed a love of reading and a knack for finding good stories — a skill he has used every day for decades.”
The Obamas’ daughter Malia interned for The Weinstein Company earlier this year. The Obamas have not issued a statement, and sources who worked in the White House pushed back on the notion that they would have been aware of the allegations against Weinstein before they surfaced in the Times story.
On Thursday, just hours after the Times report, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced that he would donate Weinstein’s contributions to charity. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) followed soon after in announcing that they, too, would be rerouting his gifts to charity.
Republicans quickly seized on the Weinstein scandal. Republican National Committee chairman Ronna McDaniel issued a statement calling on Democrats to return his campaign contributions.
“If the DNC truly stands up for women like they say they do, then returning Weinstein’s dirty money should be a no-brainer,” McDaniel said.
Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary, tweeted out a list of Weinstein’s campaign contributions to federal, state, and local candidates — all Democrats.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about the scandal at the White House press briefing. She said whether a politician should return Weinstein’s contributions was “a decision for those individuals to make.”
Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, said “scandals leading to refunded contributions or donations passed on to charity happen every cycle.”
She added, “When donations become tainted by association with scandal, politicians may weigh the benefit of cash in hand against the potential for blowback. But once the first returns are announced, others often rush to follow suit, because the only thing worse than taking money from someone embroiled in scandal, is being seen as reluctant to reject it and the scandalous behavior associated with it.”
The Times report has rocked Hollywood and the Beltway. It contains several on-the-record accounts of Weinstein’s aggressive advances toward women, including actresses Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan.