California Forum

The real difference between Trump and Weinstein is the one the GOP won’t talk about

In the now infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, Donald Trump is caught off camera boasting lewdly with Billy Bush, right, about harassing women, as Trump prepares for an appearance with actor Arianne Zucker in 2005.
In the now infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, Donald Trump is caught off camera boasting lewdly with Billy Bush, right, about harassing women, as Trump prepares for an appearance with actor Arianne Zucker in 2005. Obtained by The Washington Post

Most anybody with any life experience could tell you that there are lots of scumbags who sexually harass and abuse women – and they don’t fit into any one partisan box.

In other words, as the president might put it, there are very sleazy men “on both sides.”

Nonetheless, ever since the sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein broke 10 days ago, there’s been a steady stream of Republican pundits, senators and White House aides twisting themselves into pretzels to make the scandal land at the Democrats’ doorstep. On Tuesday, the eldest son of the president, Donald Trump Jr., piled on for the umpteenth time, pointing to donations that Weinstein had made to the Clinton Foundation.

One might think that the GOP – the party that fought to put Donald Trump in the Oval Office while knowing he’d been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment and assault, stalked naked contestants in the locker room of a beauty pageant and bragged on tape about grabbing women by their genitals – might be expected to lie low.

But no. They’ve gleefully plunged right in. Over and over again.

First came the Republican National Committee’s orchestrated effort to stain the Democrats with Weinstein’s stink. The RNC sent out emails and issued talking points, first reported by The Daily Beast, to help surrogates point fingers at the opposition for taking money from the movie mogul – “Dirty Harvey Weinstein Cash,” the RNC’s press release read.

In an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN, Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the RNC, implied that Democrats who accepted political donations from Weinstein before the sexual assault allegations against him became public were somehow complicit.

Then, with a straight face, she feigned outrage at any suggestion that Weinstein’s behavior was similar to Trump’s. “To even make that comparison is a disrespectful to the president,” she said.

For more than a week on Twitter, McDaniel attacked Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Emily’s List and the Democratic National Committee for not denouncing Weinstein fast enough or loudly enough, or for not returning the money he’d donated.

“If the DNC truly stands up for women like they say they do,” she tweeted, “then returning Weinstein’s dirty money should be a no-brainer.”

Donald Trump Jr., for his part, has tweeted and retweeted on more than two dozen occasions about Weinstein, the Hollywood elite and – because for him, it is perpetually 2016 – public enemy No. 1, Hillary Clinton. “Weird, Hillary has been really quiet about Harvey Weinstein,” he wrote. “You would think she would be all Over this. #WhatHappened?”

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, has weighed in, too: “It took Hillary abt 5 minutes to blame NRA for madman’s rampage, but 5 days to sorta-kinda blame Harvey Weinstein 4 his sexually (sic) assaults.”

Even former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who just weeks ago tried to ingratiate himself with Hollywood by making a surprise cameo at the Emmys, spent several days tweeting and retweeting dozens of stories and comments trying to link Democrats to Weinstein’s abuse. He also relentlessly beat up on the media – notably The Washington Post – for not making more of the GOP’s spin.

Never mind that Barack Obama is no longer president. Or that Hillary Clinton didn’t become president and is living in the woods in upstate New York, where she is alternately told to speak up or shut up depending on the topic at hand.

You know what the RNC and Ronna McDaniel and Kellyanne Conway and Donald Trump Jr. and Sean Spicer didn’t do? They didn’t call on the actual president of the United States to condemn Harvey Weinstein. That, apparently, cuts too close to home.

And you know what else they didn’t do? They didn’t condemn Weinstein directly, or express sympathy for the dozens of women who’ve bravely come forward to tell their stories or congratulate the “failing New York Times” for breaking this important news.

For them, this has been nothing more than a chance to take a highly charged issue and turn it into a political cudgel.

Sanctimoniously demanding that Democratic Party leaders and institutions denounce Harvey Weinstein and give back his money shamefully takes the onus off the abuser and diminishes his victims.

In her interview with Blitzer, McDaniel insisted that there were many differences between Trump and Weinstein, as well as the response of Democrats and Republicans to the accusations against both men.

I’d argue, however, that there’s only one difference that matters: We didn’t make Harvey Weinstein president.

Los Angeles-based freelancer Randye Hoder has contributed to the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, among others. In 2016 she worked for several months in the Miami press office for Hillary Clinton's campaign. Reach her at or @ranhoder.