Women Are Asking, Why Harvey Weinstein And Not Donald Trump? Here’s Why
The floodgates are open now in the Harvey Weinstein case. All in all, it’s pretty stunning just how many woman have stories to tell — about him, and other men who harassed them.
But, as we talk about Weinstein, I’m also hearing women ask, “Why has he been brought down by these sexual harassment allegations, and why wasn’t Donald Trump?”
It’s a difficult question for some people to get their heads around. After all, Weinstein is only the head of a medium-sized Hollywood production company.
The Weinstein Company ranks № 8 this year in a list of the most profitable studios compiled by Box Office Mojo. It has taken in $124 million on seven movies.
Really big studios, like Warner Brothers and Universal, have grossed well above $1 billion, and turned out more than a dozen movies apiece. And, the big holiday movie season is yet to come.
Trump, by contrast, was a presidential candidate from June, 2015 until last November, when he defeated Hillary Clinton to capture the presidency. He basked in an international spotlight.
So, it’s fair to ask whether that prominence should have caused more outrage over his alleged sexual harassment than the response Weinstein has received.
Well, you probably won’t like this answer, but it’s this. Timing is everything. Here are some reasons why Weinstein is being excoriated and Trump got off relatively unscathed.
Outrage has accumulated. The Weinstein allegations come after a string of accusations against other prominent men, including Trump, but also Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes. Too, Weinstein came after prominent women, including former Fox broadcasters Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly, went public, clearing a path for other women to do so.
And, as swift as Weinstein has fallen, others are falling even faster. On Saturday, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported on sexual harassment allegations against celebrity chef John Besh. By Monday, Besh resigned as CEO of the Besh Restaurant Group, which he founded to oversee his collection of restaurants.
Trump had more ratings clout. Television executives made no secret of their glee that the attention-getting Trump was in the Republican race. The New Yorker called CNN boss Jeff Zucker “the man who made Trump.” The New York Times Magazine wrote extensively about the “strange symbiosis” between Trump and CNN. Ratings jumped and so did advertising revenues.
To be sure, nobody knew when Trump was running that he would actually win — or that he would act the way he has as president. His candidacy was a story, and a great one, and the networks saw that it was in their best interest to milk it.
Weinstein, by contrast, is probably not a household name even now. Of course, he was well known to movie goers and within the entertainment world. But, when the scandal started, I spotted numerous tweets and posts on social media, mainly from men, declaring, “Never heard of him.”
It might come as a surprise to Weinstein to know that he wasn’t famous beyond movie circles, but his lack of fame beyond Hollywood probably is a reason why he could be battered to a greater degree than Trump.
To put it bluntly, Weinstein never caused a cable network to make money — or at least, not huge amounts. He might have been a source of some revenue, but with only six movies to advertise, not as much as another studio.
The way it broke. My former colleagues at The New York Times broke the Weinstein story after weeks of work, and years of Hollywood whispers. That gave it undeniable gravitas. They got women to talk on the record. They had the proof, gathered in a legitimate way. And, it detailed harassment that was recent.
The primary allegations against Trump came in a 2005 tape from Access Hollywood, not deliberately spoken on camera, but recorded while Trump and Billy Bush were bs-ing on a bus. It was an accidental scoop, and one that the program hid for years.
Yes, the Access Hollywood tape had an explosive impact, but ask yourself: what time does Access Hollywood air where you live? Which station is it on? When was the last time you watched?
It shouldn’t matter who broke the story, but it does, and it also matters how the story broke. A thorough, deliberate investigation by a premier news organization is regarded far more seriously than releasing a piece of video that’s been covered up for more than a decade.
It reflects something potentially bigger. The Weinstein story isn’t just a story about one guy behaving badly. It’s a story about Hollywood. And if Hollywood can foster a climate of sexual harassment, so can other industries.
We’re already seeing the reverberations in the restaurant world, where an executive chef in Chicago was fired on Monday. It’s likely that any restaurant group of any significant size is reviewing its policies on sexual harassment and discrimination, and getting human resource consultants on the phone.
People are asking, “Hollywood, restaurants, who will be next?” And there are so many potential candidates. Wall Street. Manufacturing companies. Universities. Pretty much any place where men are still in control and use their power to intimidate women.
Trump’s populace shield. Trump’s actions could have cast a disparaging light on developers, or landlords, or billionaires, but they didn’t travel much farther than him. There was a key reason: he had supporters willing to defend him.
A friend of mine put it this way: “ Well, the people who have (appropriately) vanquished Weinstein would have vanquished Trump if it were up to them. But it wasn’t.”
His denials and excuses were accepted by the people who meant most to him. And, as we found out last November, there were enough of those people in key states to vote him into office.
Weinstein, by contrast, doesn’t seem to have had a whole lot of friends and fans. Even his wife has left him, a clear sign to women everywhere that the allegations should be accepted.
If a Billy Bush style tape appeared now, or if recordings in the White House were to surface, the outcome for Trump might be different, especially when added to the chaos of his administration.
In a sense, his timing was lucky. At least, luckier than Weinstein’s.
Follow Micheline Maynard on Twitter @mickimaynard and on Instagram @michelinemaynard