WASHINGTON — What does Donald Trump have that former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, TV newsman Mark Halperin and actor Kevin Spacey don’t? A job.
All four men have been the subject of multiple accusations that they sexually harassed their subordinates. Many of the accounts go back decades. Some involve predatory assaults to which the accuser did not consent. Years later, many of the objects of their intentions still feel violated.
The volume and graphic nature of the charges have driven Weinstein, Halperin and Spacey from their precious perches.
Not Trump; he won a promotion.
After a swarm of ugly allegations about Trump kissing and groping unwilling women, American voters sent him to the White House.
Another difference: Weinstein, Halperin and Spacey apologized for their bad behavior, even as they denied some specific accusations. Trump denied everything.
In October 2016, the Washington Post reported on an outtake from a 2005 “Access Hollywood” interview with Billy Bush. Trump now famously said that when you’re a star, “you can do anything” to women – even grab their crotches.
Trump claimed that he did not behave the way he talked to Bush and dismissed his chatter as meaningless “locker room talk.”
When a number of women then came forward to accuse Trump of kissing and/or pawing them, he countered that the stories were “totally fake news” and “made-up stuff.”
One head did roll. NBC fired Bush, who was a “Today” show host in 2016. His offense? Eleven years earlier, he had chuckled at Trump’s crude remarks.
A higher bar for TV?
GOP strategist and CNN contributor Alice Stewart doesn’t think it’s accurate to lump the claims made against Trump in with the more egregious allegations made about Weinstein and Spacey.
Stewart also noted that in one sense, there is a higher bar for TV, where advertisers don’t want to be tainted with creepy guys, than for elected office.
Trump voters know he has faults, but they were looking for someone to drain the swamp and shake up the Beltway. Voters voters were looking for a fighter, Stewart said. Besides, Trump never ran as a “family values” candidate.
Hoover Institution research fellow Bill Whalen compared Trump to another candidate who won office after a large number of women accused him of crude behavior: former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“This is one of the benefits of jumping into politics from a (nonpolitical) background like Schwarzenegger or Trump,” said Whalen. “Voters are supporting you because they want to buck the system.”
Another factor was that Schwarzenegger’s wife Maria Shriver, a member of the Kennedy clan, was deployed “like a human shield” to vouch for the action hero’s character.
Melania Trump also vouched for her husband after the “Access Hollywood” tape went viral.
In the entertainment world, there has been a stampede away from Weinstein, Spacey and Halperin.
Weinstein’s wife left him after the New York Times reported on his casting couch maneuvers. His brother helped oust him from the business they founded.
After actor Anthony Rapp accused Spacey of sexually assaulting him when he was 14, eight current and former “House of Cards” crew members accused Spacey, who played jaded President Frank Underwood, of creating a “toxic” atmosphere. Now the production’s final season has been suspended, and Spacey’s publicist and agent parted ways with him. The fictional president seems fated to be felled by reality.
John Heilemann, who co-wrote two books with Halperin and was working on a third, told the New York Times that accounts of Halperin’s behavior, the most graphic of which Halperin denied, do not match the man he knows as his collaborator of the last decade.
Heilemann said, “Mark was my friend. I cared about him then, and I care about him now. It’s also the case Mark wasn’t in my closest circle of friends.”
That’s cold. Heilemann didn’t even argue for a statute of limitations for bullying workplace behavior.
There’s another element starkly missing after accusations have been directed toward others in the entertainment orbit — the conviction that the burden falls on the accuser, not the accused.
Soft spot in politics
Politics appear warm and fuzzy in comparison.
In politics, there always are loyal partisans ready to stand up for someone whom they believe should not be a target, especially if they suspect the timing of a story is politically motivated.
Whalen believes President Bill Clinton, by fighting back when it had been reported that he had been involved with a White House intern, paved the way for Trump. Clinton’s first instinct was to deny, not apologize, and fight back. He survived.
Hillary Clinton’s defense of her husband hobbled her own presidential campaign in 2016. “How can she attack Donald Trump for bad behavior when she in fact turned a blind eye to her husband’s own behavior?” Whalen asked.
Here’s an odd twist. Actress Amber Tamblyn has a theory on how Trump’s election led to Weinstein’s demise. She told Cosmopolitan magazine, “Honestly, I trace everything back to the election of Donald Trump. I think that without him being elected, if it had been Hillary Clinton, this would’ve never happened to Harvey Weinstein.”
Tamblyn said she understands that not all women see Trump as she does, as she sees his victory as a signal that women don’t matter. “And so within that single vote, it sort of was like a switch was flipped on and every woman just went, ‘I’m done.’ It’s as simple as that. I’m done.”
A Hollywood ending? In backing a candidate who does not back down, Trump voters gained a fighter – and from his victory, Hollywood tasted its vaunted values.