Imagine, for a moment, if a major newspaper had published a bombshell investigative report late last week exposing how one of the Koch brothers has spent decades serially subjecting women to high-grade sexual harassment. And imagine that as all of the seedy details -- seriously, read this -- emerged, people throughout the conservative movement started spilling to reporters that this Koch brother's predatory behavior had been an open secret for a long time. Please try to picture the tone of the resulting media coverage, the organized boycotts of Koch Industries, the finger-wagging from sanctimonious celebrities, the outraged statements from women's groups, the football-spiking from Harry Reid, the Democratic Party's extravagant high dudgeon, late night comedians' insult-happy bonanza, and the endless calls for every Republican official with any tie whatsoever to the Kochs to denounce the offending conduct and to return every last cent of Koch-tied money he or she had ever received.
Now compare that hypothetical shinola storm, which would likely become a central narrative in the next election cycle a la "culture of corruption," to the delayed and relatively muted response to Harvey Weinstein's depravity. Weinstein is a (now fired) consummate Hollywood power player and a Democratic mega-donor who's enjoyed special access to President Obama and Hillary Clinton. A number of celebrities have spoken out against Weinstein, but many A-listers seem to have been biding their time, trying to calculate how this firestorm will play out; crossing Weinstein could be a career-harming or -ending endeavor if this mess blows over, after all. That may be why our High Priests of comedy conspicuously pulled their punches as the scandal was breaking. As for GOP demands that Democrats unload their Weinstein cash, the Democratic National Committee weighed its options and chose to engage in transparently pathetic and craven window dressing:
The Democratic National Committe will donate $30k in Weinstein cash to EMILY’s List, Emerge America and Higher HeightsThe DNC— Jonathan Easley (@JonEasley) October 6, 2017
Those three groups are explicitly Democrat-aligned organizations that spend money for the express purpose of electing Democrats, much like the DNC. In other words:
Group committed to electing Democrats will courageously donate Weinstein money to groups committed to electing Democrats! https://t.co/Hu6WD6nXiI— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) October 6, 2017
A farce. Plus, that pittance isn't even close to a majority of the roughly $300,000 of tainted Weinstein the DNC has sitting in its coffers. This pitiful move has drawn some intense criticism, and at least one Democratic Senator (an infamous demagogue, no less) has called on the hapless committee to step up and rid itself of Weinstein money altogether. But it also seems as though the empty gesture has been enough to impress a number of headline writers and Truth to Power* journalists:
Amazingly enough, some newsrooms are actually soft-peddling the DNC's bizzaro money laundering scheme. "Democratic National Committee to Give Away More Than $30,000 of Harvey Weinstein's Donations," read a headline published Friday afternoon by the Hollywood Reporter. The Hill reported, "DNC to donate money from Weinstein to women's political groups after sexual harassment accusations." "DNC to give Harvey Weinstein donations to women's organizations," read a headline published by the Daily Beast. These headlines are terrific for Democrats. How big-hearted they sound! How pro-active! They're truly the pro-woman party. Really, though, why leave out the crucial context that the DNC is putting 10 percent of Weinstein's overall contributions into groups that will basically give it right back? Omitting the sleazy truth of the DNC's Weinstein cash plan leaves the reader with a decidedly different, and wrong, impression about what's really happening. Perhaps that's the point.
And now, a word on the swirling hypocrisy and breathtaking 'glass housery' surrounding the Weinstein mess, on all sides. Too many in the media and liberal elite who gleefully and ruthlessly pounced all over Bill O'Reilly and Roger Ailes for their sexualized abuses of power are offering restrained and hedged responses -- if any at all -- to Weinstein's scandal. It seems likely that a sizable contingent of people who were ostentatiously aghast over Donald Trump's Access Hollywood tape, and the torrent of accusations that flowed from his appalling caught-on-tape boasting, were simultaneously aware of another powerful man's pattern of caddish intimidation. And did nothing. Weinstein's predations were apparently quite well known within entertainment industry circles, yet he was granted a near-universal pass by many who were unsparing in their sniping at right-of-center figures credibly accused of similar misconduct. Partisan tribalism blended with career ambition and self-interest is a potent mix, it turns out. But this effect can cut both ways. How can my network, Fox News, credibly turn the screws on Weinstein when comparable in-house behavior was swept under the rug and covered up for years? Many of those culpable parties are no longer at Fox, and new management is striving to reform toxic elements of the culture. But the bitter aftertaste of those scandals won't be quickly or neatly washed away -- and as Weinstein is (rightly) criticized on our air, it's understandable why some critics would note the irony that until recently, Fox was, as one friend put it, "the glassiest of houses" on the subject of sexual harassment.
Even more brazen are the potshots coming from President Trump and members of his family at Weinstein. Sure, the movie mogul deserves everything that's coming to him, but on what planet are the Trumps, of all people, in a position to cast aspersions here? Pot, kettle, etc. In an exchange on Twitter, Donald Trump Jr. trolled ABC comedian Jimmy Kimmel over the Weinstein contretemps, demanding to know what the late night host thought of it, in light of his absence of indignant shaming (a recent Kimmel calling card) on the subject. Kimmel replied by calling the story "disgusting" (while omitting his pal Weinstein's name), then fired back by linking to the "grab 'em" tape starring Don Jr's father. This slam-dunk clap-back to Junior's audacious attack was painfully predictable, yet doesn't it also fit the textbook definition of "whataboutism," of which liberals routinely accuse Trump defenders? If it's illegitimate to downplay or excuse Trump controversies by pointing to tangentially-related sins of others ("Trump may not be perfect, but what about this?"), shouldn't reversing the roles ("this is bad, but what about Trump?") be met with groans and eyerolls, too? It should, particularly if it's feebly offered up by America's self-appointed Pope of Moral Clarity and National Conscience. Perhaps everyone would be better off trying to avoid hypocritical hackery by simply calling out abominable behavior wherever it exists, whether or not doing so is convenient and fashionable within one's ideological tent.
Finally, since I've mentioned Pope Kimmel, I'll leave you with an indication that maybe America's professional funny people should spend more time on humor, and less time preening for half the country while slandering the other. Trouble at the Secular Vatican?