Let us now raze terrible men: Harvey Weinstein and President Trump.
Both are thin-skinned bullies with companies bearing their own names. Both have spent their lives trying to outrun the stigma of growing up as bridge-and-tunnel boys, far from the lofty heights of Manhattan.
Both have also been linked to multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. But this is where the similarities abruptly end.
Since The New York Times published its investigation into reports of Weinstein’s alleged offenses against scores of women, the entertainment mogul has been shunned. He was fired by the company he cofounded and was booted from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. His wife dumped him, former associates are breaking nondisclosure agreements to spill the tea, and authorities in New York, Los Angeles, and London are investigating sexual assault allegations against him.
As for a comparable barrage of accusations against Trump during his presidential run, well, we know how things turned out for him.
“It is hard to reconcile that Harvey Weinstein could be brought down with this, and [President] Trump just continues to be Teflon Don,” Jessica Leeds, who says Trump fondled her on a plane 30 years ago, told The Washington Post.
Just as stark is the difference in public reaction to the accusers, which raises the question — if Trump, like Weinstein, had been accused of sexually harassing or assaulting a famous woman, would he be president today?
Few seem to distrust allegations from Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Mira Sorvino, Rose McGowan, Lupita Nyong’o, and others about Weinstein’s sexually aggressive behavior. Yet even after the broadcast of a 2005 “Access Hollywood” audiotape with Trump lewdly bragging about kissing and groping women without their consent, his accusers have never been given the benefit of the doubt. He, of course, denounced their looks, as if sexual misconduct is about sex, not power, and called them “horrible, horrible liars.”
Weeks later, he was elected the 45th president of the United States.
For anyone who’s been sexually harassed or assaulted, especially women, speaking out requires remarkable fortitude. Those who do are routinely dragged, disbelieved, and called everything from gold diggers to vengeful whores. Their harsh treatment is also a warning to the next woman who tries to step foward with her own harrowing tale to tell. In our celebrity-obsessed culture, only the weight of famous women telling their stories on the record finally managed to bring Weinstein down.
Of course, celebrity can also be a shield for the accused.
Rolling Stone has the latest bombshell report about singer R. Kelly’s alleged sexual improprieties — accusations that date back to at least 1994, when Kelly, then 27, briefly married his 15-year-old protégé, Aaliyah. Kitti Jones, Kelly’s latest accuser, could be speaking for many women when she says, “I want them to not be so dismissive towards the women that are speaking out. We’re not just rolling over out of bed and saying, ‘Hmm, let me just make up a story about R. Kelly today.’ ” So far, Kelly’s career hasn’t been derailed.
Jones reiterated that, “[Anyone who has spoken out] has gotten annihilated in the press [and] from fans.” That’s what happened to the women who accused Bill Cosby of drugging and raping them. In a few places, there remain those unable to reconcile the Cosby they “knew” — beloved comedian, philanthropist, family man — with such heinous acts. His retrial on sexual assault charges is scheduled for next month.
As important as it is that Weinstein, a likely serial sexual predator, has been exposed, it’s equally essential that all victims of sexual misconduct are afforded the same patina of veracity, whether or not they’re famous. As far as I can tell, that’s the primary difference between Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Leeds — and it may be the only reason why Weinstein now lives in disgrace, while Trump lives in the White House.Renée Graham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.