Not So Brave: Why Isn’t The Onion Mocking Harvey Weinstein?

Since the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault story broke in the New York Times on October 5, the usually aggressive, satirical Onion has avoided bashing the fallen studio exec (and prominent Democrat). The Onion managed just one humor piece. And that story really wasn’t about attacking Weinstein.

The headline redirected attention to sexism in general: “‘How Could Harvey Weinstein Get Away With This?’ Asks Man Currently Ignoring Sexual Misconduct Of 17 Separate Coworkers, Friends, Acquaintances.” 

The Onion is owned by the liberal Univision network. Is it possible that the corporate ownership of the satirical site didn’t want to embarrass the funder and friend of the Clintons? In 2016, The Intercept wrote this of the connection between the Onion and Univision: 

Many news outlets covered Univision Communications’ purchase last week of a stake in The Onion, the world’s leading news publication. According to NPR, Univision bought a 40 percent controlling interest in the company, and also acquired the option to buy the remainder of The Onion in the future.

But what’s gotten no attention at all is that Haim Saban, Hillary Clinton’s biggest fan and financial supporter, is Univision’s co-owner and chairman. Saban and his wife, Cheryl, are Hillary Clinton’s top financial backers, having given $2,046,600 to support her political campaigns and at least $10 million more to the Clinton Foundation, on whose board Cheryl Saban sits. The Sabans are also generous supporters of the overall Democratic Party infrastructure, donating, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a total of $16.1 million since 1989 to Democratic and liberal candidates, party committees, leadership PACs, and federally focused 527s.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) was the featured speaker at the dedication of the Saban Research Institute today, June 29, 2003 in Hollywood, California. She joined Cheryl and Haim Saban who made a $40 million contribution to support and stimulate pediatric medical research at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. The donation is believed to be the  largest single gift of its kind to a children's hospital in North America. Hillary Clinton at Saban Research Institute with Cheryl and Haim Saban in 2003. Saban badly wants Hillary Clinton to be elected president this year, vowing to provide “as much as needed” to see it happen, since “she would be great for the country and great for the world,” and “on issues I care about, [Clinton] is pristine plus.”

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It’s not as though The Onion avoids mocking Hollywood filmmakers. The site’s search engine yields 14 articles deriding blockbuster director Michael Bay. Harvey Weinstein? Just two. Ever. Keep in mind, the satirical publication (first in print and then online) goes back to 1988. (It should be noted that the Onion’s non-parody AV Club has covered Weinstein. But it has hardly the cache or prestige of its satire department.)  

Perhaps it’s not surprising that another liberal outlet is going soft on a major Democratic donor. After the story initially broke, comedy hosts Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon all skipped it. On October 7, Saturday Night Live avoided hammering Weinstein. Producer Lorne Michaels dismissed it as a “New York thing.” 

The late night comedy shows have since been shamed into covering Weinstein. The question is, will The Onion follow? And what’s the reason behind this supposedly bold satire site skipping the story so far? 

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Scott Whitlock's picture