The allegations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein have embroiled Hollywood in an urgent debate on the ability of powerful men to get away with unwanted advances, and so much more. But it has also reached the orbit of politics, with many people blaming the former Democratic presidential candidate for her connection to the movie producer. Critics have pulled Hillary Clinton into the story about Weinstein's alleged transgressions, despite the much graver issue of accusations of sexual harassment and assault women in the industry have leveled at Weinstein over several decades. (Weinstein has apologized for his behavior, but insists that the encounters were consensual.)
In the wake of the allegations in the initial New York Times story last Thursday, many conservatives called on Clinton to comment, which she did on Tuesday in a statement noting that such behavior "cannot be tolerated." Kellyanne Conway went on Fox News and called Clinton a hypocrite, arguing that given the former secretary of state's position on women's rights, it "took an awfully long time to give support to these women who were coming forward" — with no mention of the current president who has been accused of very similar behavior. (Trump has routinely denied all allegations of sexual misconduct.)
But even The New York Times ran an op-ed in which Weinstein's role in the scandal is reduced and a culture of enablers in part because he "donated lavishly to Democratic politicians, backed progressive causes." Bill Clinton is also explicitly mentioned.
On Wednesday, when asked about Weinstein's alleged behavior on CNN, Clinton denounced it. "I was appalled. It was something that was just intolerable in every way," she said in the interview. "And, you know, like so many people who've come forward and spoken out, this was a different side of a person who I and many others had known in the past."
Asked if she knew about the allegations, she said, "I certainly didn't, and I don't know who did," she told Zakaria. "But I can only speak for myself, and I think speak for many others who knew him primarily through politics."
Her response was criticized by many people, including celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who has described himself as a "privileged Eastern liberal." Bourdain tweeted on Wednesday night:
Hillary is CLEARLY not responsible for anything Weinstein. That's screamingly obvious. Her response to questions though has been uninspiring.
Earlier, he had tweeted:
Know what Hillary Clinton is NOT? She's not stupid. Or unsophisticated about the world. The Weinstein stories had been out there for years.
The contrast between the response to Clinton's criticism of Weinstein with that of other Democrats' — President Obama included — is stark. Obama has not come under the same fire for his response, and he and other Democrats have also benefited from Weinstein's campaign donations and Hollywood connections over the years. (Like the Democratic politicians who vowed to donate his financial campaign contributions to charity, Clinton said she would do the same. "There's no doubt about that," she told CNN.) On Tuesday, Obama condemned Weinstein — the same day that Clinton did.
So, why has it fallen to Clinton to take down every creep on her own? Last year, she went up against a presidential candidate who was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women (allegations Trump denies), and who was caught on tape explicitly bragging about sexual assault. And it's not the first time Clinton has been attacked for a man's alleged sexual misbehavior: There was her husband Bill's, which she was blamed for both during her time as first lady, and then again on the campaign trail.
The charge of hypocrisy is like catnip to political pundits. They may not understand what feminism is or how abuse works or how Harvey could have hidden this from precisely the people who would have stopped him, but women are being bad feminists.
It's the easy argument to make, the Twitter user explains, and commentators and the media fall into it.
It’s important to note that this has applied nearly exclusively to women; Obama, who has called himself a feminist, has not seen nearly as much blowback despite having also taken Weinstein's money. But even though she's not actively working in politics anymore, Clinton has been held up as a figure worthy of more criticism than other prominent (and active) political figures. She's not a major candidate for any race, and definitely not in charge of the Democratic Party.
Among the main arguments in the criticism against Clinton's response to Weinstein — particularly from Conway — is her history of championing women's rights. Again, @GothamGirlBlue sums up what's going on here, why a woman like Clinton is being made responsible for a how a man she doesn't regularly interact with behaves:
It's like icing on the sexist cake: blame women for using terms like rape culture and then blame them for actual rape culture.
Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine said in an interview Tuesday that this is condemnable behavior. "Any leader should condemn this. These allegations are low-life behavior," he told CNN. That's true. But instead of looking to people who are not running the country, the focus should be rape culture, toxic masculinity, and the culture that gives such behavior is given a pass — including in politics, and especially in the White House.
According to press pool reports, Trump acknowledged knowing Weinstein for a long time and said, "I'm not at all surprised to see it." So if Trump knew about this behavior and failed to condemn it then, where is the outrage over that? Unless, of course, there's a clear double standard for women — in Hollywood, in politics, and all other aspects of society.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.