Appearing on MSNBC Tuesday afternoon, Vanity Fair special correspondent Gabe Sherman revealed that he was “shocked” that former President Barack Obama would “legitimize” disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein at a recent political event despite claims of sexual harassment against Weinstein being “an open secret in Hollywood and in media circles.”
During the 1 p.m. ET hour exchange, anchor Craig Melvin noted that Weinstein was “a well-known Democratic donor” who gave “hundreds of thousands of dollars to candidates and causes associated with the left over the years.” After reading a statement of Hillary Clinton finally denouncing the Hollywood mogul who strongly supported her campaign, Melvin turned to Sherman: “Gabe, it’s hard to believe that a slew of folks did not know what was going on for decades.”
Sherman thought of another prominent Democrat who benefitted from Weinstein’s financial support:
Well, clearly people did know that there were allegations of Harvey's behavior with women. It was an open secret in Hollywood and in media circles. And, you know, I was at an event months back, right after President Obama left office, in which he gave a speech. And the first person – I was really struck by this – the first person he went over to greet on the rope line was Harvey Weinstein. And President Obama’s daughter, Malia, interned for him. And I, as a reporter, sort of knowing the rumors and the gossip, was shocked, you know, knowing what’s out there, that President Obama would legitimize Harvey Weinstein in that way.
He then observed: “And I think that is partly why women felt so scared to come forward, because the most powerful people in the country, from actors to journalists to politicians, were all surrounding themselves around Harvey.”
Moments later, NPR media reporter David Folkenflik wondered: “You know, it’s striking, you think about the question, why wasn’t this reported earlier?” He then congratulated The New York Times for breaking the story: “At the same time, there are standards at places like The New York Times, which has proven time and time again to be willing to go after figures, liberal and conservative, when the facts merit it.”
However, perhaps before he started lauding the Times for taking on Weinstein in 2017, Folkenflik should have recalled that the paper’s top executives quashed a similar report back in 2004.
Here is a transcript of the October 10 segment:
1:32 PM ET
CRAIG MELVIN: Hollywood’s elite are now publicly denouncing [Harvey] Weinstein, who was fired yesterday over allegations of sexual harassment from multiple women. I want to bring in David Fofinflik – Folkenflik, excuse me – media reporter for NPR, MSNBC legal analyst Danny Cevallos, and Gabe Sherman, special correspondent for Vanity Fair, who wrote that Vanity Fair piece that we’ve been talking about. He’s also an MSNBC contributor. Gabe, let me start with you. I know you’ve been following this story closely. Surprised?
GABE SHERMAN: No, sadly. I mean, this fits the pattern of the allegations we learned about days ago in The New York Times expose. I think what was so stunning about this New Yorker piece, and the audio recording especially, is it sort of fits with all of my reporting last year on Roger Ailes about this predator-type personality of the way they try to lure women into these sexual encounters that clearly the power dynamic is completely out of proportion. And you hear in the audio the way Harvey keeps pressing and she’s resisting and he’s pressing. And that, to me, was striking, just to hear the documentary evidence of how these encounters happened. And that’s what I found not surprising, but chilling to listen to.
MELVIN: David, The New York Times now reporting – again, this came out a short time ago – Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, and a few other well know women in Hollywood, they are also now coming forward claiming that Harvey Weinstein harassed or assaulted them in some way. Your take, is this something that we’re going to probably start to see more of over the next few days, more women coming forward?
DAVID FOLKENFLIK: I mean, I’m guessing that you will. I’m guessing it almost doesn’t matter at this point, there’s been such a multitude of women who are speaking in their own voices, by name, directly giving accounts, and being supported by others. In Gwyneth Paltrow’s case, Brad Pitt, then her boyfriend, now confirms that he did confront Harvey Weinstein and said, “Never touch her again, never approach her again,” for something that happened two decades ago. You know, there are a series of women who are stepping forward who are prominent, like Gwyneth Paltrow, and I think it’s meaningful because they’re giving their voice and support to women who don’t have stature, who don’t have wealth, who don’t have a coterie lawyers behind them, but who are making similar allegations.
MELVIN: But why weren’t any of these Hollywood actresses at all concerned about the scores of other young women that would come behind them?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, Angelina Jolie, I think in today’s New York Times article posted a few hours ago, talks about that. And she said she basically decided not to work with him anymore and said she warned other women not to work with him. Now, that is different than publicly coming out and condemning somebody and getting perhaps in some sort of legal battle or in some ways burning bridges with other people who have to do business with Miramax, initially, or The Weinstein Company of late. But it is interesting that these prominent women themselves didn’t feel that they had the ability to do that until the climate had changed. And of course we’re in the era of Roger Ailes, we’re in the era of Bill Crosby, we’re in the era even of President Trump, allegations coming out. People now perhaps see that there’s a mass of consciousness on this that allows them to speak in ways they may not have felt comfortable before.
MELVIN: Harvey Weinstein, of course, a well-known Democratic donor, hundreds of thousands of dollars to candidates and causes associated with the left over the years. Hillary Clinton had been noticeably silent until a few moments ago. A statement from the former Democratic nominee for President of the United States, quote, “I was shocked and appalled by the revelations about Harvey Weinstein. The behavior described by women coming forward cannot be tolerated. Their courage and the support of others is critical in helping to stop this kind of behavior." Again, that statement coming from Hillary Clinton just a few moments ago. Again, Gabe, it’s hard to believe that a slew of folks did not know what was going on for decades.
SHERMAN: Well, clearly people did know that there were allegations of Harvey's behavior with women. It was an open secret in Hollywood and in media circles. And, you know, I was at an event months back, right after President Obama left office, in which he gave a speech. And the first person – I was really struck by this – the first person he went over to greet on the rope line was Harvey Weinstein. And President Obama’s daughter, Malia, interned for him. And I, as a reporter, sort of knowing the rumors and the gossip, was shocked, you know, knowing what’s out there, that President Obama would legitimize Harvey Weinstein in that way.
And I think that is partly why women felt so scared to come forward, because the most powerful people in the country, from actors to journalists to politicians, were all surrounding themselves around Harvey. And a woman would say to themselves, “Why would I come forward and face all of that public pressure?”
FOLKENFLIK: You know, it’s striking, you think about the question, why wasn’t this reported earlier? You know, people have known about this, an open secret, Angelina Jolie says she’s been warning other women, people joked about it on 30 Rock a few years ago, where one of the characters said, you know, “I turned down Harvey Weinstein three out of five times he tried approach me for sex.” And you know, it’s a punch line basically at that point. So it’s an inside joke.
At the same time, there are standards at places like The New York Times, which has proven time and time again to be willing to go after figures, liberal and conservative, when the facts merit it. The New Yorker, supposedly an avatar of liberalism, and effectively it is, and at the same time, clearly willing to do very, very damning reporting, including three accusations of rape against Harvey Weinstein.
And then you think about why wasn’t it out there? It wasn’t out there because they weren’t able to get it on the record, able to get documentary evidence, able to get audio recordings, able to get reports, able to get women by name. And one more thing I’ll say, think about the role that Gawker used to play in the news ecosystem here. It’s gone now, sued out of existence. Many people cheered that. And there were reasons to criticize it, as I often did. But it would put the sort of twilight news out there, not quite confirmed, not quite ready for what we think of as scrupulous news organizations to publish and it was – but it was beyond rumor. And they talked about Harvey Weinstein and they raised those very questions.