Hillary Clinton made headlines Tuesday for a wide-ranging interview she held with The Hollywood Reporter in anticipation of the world premiere of “Hillary,” a documentary about her life, premiering this week at the Sundance Film Festival, but largely because she finally let loose on Sen. Bernie Sanders, her rival for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, trashing the Vermont Senator and calling him unlikeable and fake.
But in her interview with THR, she also defended her longtime friend, Democratic mega-donor Harvey Weinstein, despite “disavowing” the accused sexual predator back in the 2017, when he was first accused of dozens of sexual assaults and rapes.
There was no way to know, Clinton said, that Weinstein was a sexual predator before the women came forward, because Weinstein was nothing more than a distant friend and sometimes donor.
“How could we have known?” Clinton told The Hollywood Reporter. “He raised money for me, for the Obamas, for Democrats in general. And that at the time was something that everybody thought made sense.”
“Of course, if all of us had known what we know now, it would have affected our behavior,” she quickly added.
That makes it sound as though Clinton just cashed Weinstein’s checks, but the pair have at least a cordial relationship going back more than a decade. Indeed, he was a donor; Weinstein reportedly bundling around $1.6 million for Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, per Newsweek, and giving around $1.4 million of his own to Democrats since 1992, when Clinton’s husband, Bill, first ran for president.
“The Weinstein family donated $46,350 to Hillary Clinton and to HILLPAC, a committee Clinton used to support other Democrats while senator,” Newsweek reports.
But Bill and Hillary Clinton were personal friends of Weinstein’s. The trio were spotted together at fundraisers, like the Planned Parenthood 100th Anniversary Gala, which took place just a couple of months before the #MeToo movement began in earnest, and Bill and Hillary dined out with Harvey at New York landmark Rao‘s in December of 2016, after she lost the presidential election to Donald Trump — one of her first times out after the election. It was a business meeting, The New York Times reported; Clinton wanted to make a documentary about her loss.
And Clinton was, reportedly, told several times about Weinstein’s extra-curricular activities during the 2016 election cycle, most notably by writer and women’s rights activist Lena Dunham, who took a front-and-center role on Clinton’s campaign. Dunham emailed Clinton’s then-communications director with a dire warning: “I just want you to let you know that Harvey’s a rapist and this is going to come out at some point,” she said. “I think it’s a really bad idea for him to host fund-raisers and be involved because it’s an open secret in Hollywood that he has a problem with sexual assault.”
The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow even claims, in his new book, “Catch and Kill,” that Weinstein tried to use Clinton as a surrogate, siccing on the investigative reporter to try to kill a story Farrow was working on about Weinstein’s alleged sexual assaults.
Farrow received an email “from Clinton’s publicist, Nick Merrill, in 2017,” warning him off Weinstein. “Merrill told him that the ‘big story’ he was working on was a ‘concern for us,’” ostensibly referring to Clinton.
After the allegations against Weinstein became public, Clinton disavowed her relationship with the mega-producer, saying in a statement that she “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.”
She also pledged to give back Weinstein’s donations, but never followed up to prove she did.
Weinstein is now on trial in New York for sexual assault. Los Angeles recently announced that Weinstein will have to face charges there, as well, stemming from an alleged rape that occurred the week of the Academy Awards in 2013.