Ever since my ninth-grade English teacher introduced me to the term, I’ve always enjoyed oxymorons. Indeed, I even like saying the word oxymoron. Classics like “jumbo shrimp” come to mind, along with the self-deprecating “military intelligence” — the latter invented, I’m told, by no less than the military itself.
My favorite of the last 10 years or so is “open secret.” As in Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct was an open secret in the political and entertainment communities.
Weinstein, the uber movie and entertainment mogul, was a well known creeper and sexual harasser. Cries to the contrary from Hillary Clinton and Connecticut’s own Meryl Streep have a hollow ring.
When the New York Times published its explosive exposé earlier this month, most Americans had no idea who Weinstein was, to say nothing of his revolting and possibly criminal behavior toward women.
But anyone who watches the Oscars or shows like 30 Rock — which includes almost everyone in the entertainment business and on Capitol Hill — had to know about Weinstein’s disgusting behavior.
Weinstein’s exploits were such an inside joke that they really became outside. Fellow entertainment bigwig Seth MacFarlane, who grew up in Kent, Conn., joked four years ago while announcing the nominees for best supporting actress: “Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.” The crack elicited enough laughter that MacFarlane and his announcing partner Emma Stone had to pause for several seconds before announcing the winner.
The Jenna Maroney character on 30 Rock consoled her colleague, Tracy Jordan, about his love life: “I know how former lovers can have a hold over you long after they’re gone,” she says. “In some ways, I’m still pinned under a passed-out Harvey Weinstein, and it’s Thanksgiving.”
Weinstein was not only a major Democratic Party donor and activist, but he gave generously to the causes progressive women care about.
Now we’re supposed to believe the cries from politicians who took his money that they are shocked — shocked! — that Weinstein, who owns a home in Westport, was at best a serial sexual harasser of women and, at worst, a rapist.
Connecticut politicians who have received support from Weinstein, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, have belatedly fallen all over themselves to walk away from the animal who helped them get elected.
Blumenthal received $2,700 last year from Weinstein for his re-election campaign. He said he would give the same amount to an anti-sexual-violence charity. DeLauro will give back the $1,000 she received from Weinstein in 1996 to a similar organization. Good for them, but it’s hard to escape the conclusion that they’re acting responsibly only because Weinstein’s disgusting behavior has received greater publicity.
Amid the emotional distress and outpouring of the support for Weinstein’s victims, it has been amusing to see the hypocrisy of Republicans like J.R. Romano, the state GOP chair, who told Hearst’s Neil Vigdor that, “Unless and until the Connecticut Democrats reject their endless supply of dirty money, their selective moral outrage means nothing. It is time for them to put up or shut up about fairness, equality and common decency.”
Speaking of selective moral outrage, perhaps someone should tell Romano that the man he supported for president last year was the object of many of the same accusations. And I’m not talking just about the Access Hollywood tape, which Romano branded “not morally equivalent.”
President Donald J. Trump has been accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault by at least 15 women dating back to the 1980s. So Republicans who supported Trump had better tread carefully here, lest they look like partisan hacks or complete fools — or both. Now imagine Weinstein sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office.
Likewise, Democrats who point to Trump’s sexual conduct ought to consider the high regard they have for former President Bill Clinton, who faced a string of similar accusers.
In addition to the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and the #MeToo campaign on social media, I think what the last couple of weeks have shown us is the value of great journalism. The New York Times broke the Weinstein story and CBS’ 60 Minutes teamed up with the Washington Post to expose how Trump’s pick for drug czar, Congressman Tom Marino, had championed a bill that made it much harder for federal agents to stop the spread of addictive opioid drugs.
Those reports resulted in the resignation of Weinstein from his media company and Marino’s withdrawal from consideration as head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Not a bad month for journalism. But great journalism requires resources.
Every time outstanding watchdog journalism makes a difference, whether it happens on the national stage or on the local or state level at sites such as CT News Junkie, we all benefit. So the next time a news website or a public radio station solicits you for a contribution, smile and write them a check.
Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at ctdevilsadvocate.com and is managing editor of The Berkshire Edge in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill.
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