President Donald Trump addressed on Saturday the sexual harassment scandal that’s engulfed power producer Harvey Weinstein following an explosive New York Times report chronicling decades of allegations.
According to the White House pool report, Trump said he’s known Weinstein for a long time. “I’m not at all surprised to see it,” he said when reporters asked about the sexual assault allegations waged by multiple women against Weinstein.
When asked about the correlation between the Weinstein controversy and his own following the leak of an “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump made crude remarks about a reporter, he said, “That’s locker room (talk)” — the same response he gave last year when the audio was first released.
Several White House correspondents who were congregated outside the White House before Trump left for North Carolina also shared his remarks on social media.
“JUST IN: Trump on Harry Weinstein: I’ve known him a long time, I’m not surprised,” NBC News’ Peter Alexander tweeted from the scene.
“POTUS just said ‘not at all surprised’ by the Harvey Weinstein comments. I asked him how that was different from Access Hollywood tape,” CNN’s Elizabeth Landers wrote.
“The President told me that was ‘locker room talk’ and then moved on the next question,” she added.
Trump himself wrote on Twitter that he was headed for North Carolina minutes after reporters on the scene tweeted his surprising remarks.
“Leaving the White House for the Great State of North Carolina. Big progress being made on many fronts!” Trump wrote.
Weinstein was at odds with Trump politically, and helped organize campaign fundraisers for his 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton.
But it is little surprise that they know each other, given their New York roots and because they both have a long history of experience in exploiting attention, particularly in the Manhattan tabloids.
Trump tweeted a swipe at Weinstein in 2014, as Weinstein was taking on the gun lobby.
On Friday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to say much about the Weinstein scandal when she was asked whether Democrats should return political donations from him.
But others have. The Republican National Committee has highlighted donations that Democrats have received from Weinstein, as has Sean Spicer, Trump’s former press secretary.
RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel wrote on Twitter, “Whose side is Hillary Clinton on: Harvey Weinstein’s or his victims?” Clinton has not issued any comment on Weinstein since the New York Times story broke. But the topic may come up on Monday, when she will make an appearance in Davis, Calif. for her book tour.
Earlier on Saturday, Donald Trump Jr. sparred with Jimmy Kimmel on Twitter. Trump’s father tweeted about late-night talk hosts earlier in the day.
Democrats have been on the defensive, particularly when it comes to campaign contributions from Weinstein.
On Saturday, in an excerpt from an interview she gave to NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told moderator Chuck Todd that she was “really surprised that people knew these things and did nothing about it.”
“It’s like these shootings. And it’s very, very concerning that there can’t be a more defined moral code,” she said.
She said she didn’t know whether she has received any contributions from Weinstein.
“I don’t know that I’ve received any. I’ll certainly take a look, and then I’ll make a decision,” she said. “That’s the best I can do for you today.”
At least eight Democratic senators have announced that they are donating the sums that Weinstein contributed to their campaigns to charities. Among them is Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). In addition, the Democratic National Committee announced that it would donate more than $30,000 in contributions from Weinstein to groups including Emily’s List, while calling the allegations against him “deeply troubling.”
But the DNC also tried to turn the scandal back on Republicans. In their statement, they noted that it was the one-year anniversary of the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape.
“The Democratic party condemns all forms of sexual harassment and assault,” the statement said. “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.”
— Ted Johnson contributed to this report.