Faced with the consequences of an extensive New York Times report on his decades of sexual harassing, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein couldn’t help himself—he kept talking. Among his responses to this deeply reported news was the threat of legal action against the paper that wrote about his predatory behavior, which included on-the-record remarks from Hollywood stars and staff forced to bear the gamut of his abuse. There was also a bizarre, self-serving statement that contained references to his mother, gun violence and politics, and attempted to explain away his behavior as a relic of a different generation.
Harvey clearly didn’t get the memo—nobody wants to hear from him. His job, now, is to stay quiet, not to be clever. His clumsy remarks only generated more rounds of columns and articles, and confirmed the sense that he still doesn’t get it. His arrogance is so great, his dismissiveness of others so ingrained, that he had to mouth off.
Anthony Weiner, former Congressman and mayoral candidate, has been sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for his illegal communications with a minor. While Weinstein and Weiner’s underlying actions cannot necessarily be equated, their recent reactions to the “next steps” in their difficulties are very similar.
It can be said that both Weinstein and Weiner were at the top of their game. The powerhouse with the “touch of gold” (referring to golden movie awards and coin) and the glib politician who would have been mayor in 2013 had it all, with more good stuff coming their way.
Pride, it’s said, comes before the fall, and for these fallen power brokers, it continued throughout.
Anthony’s legal team submitted pre-sentencing requests and recommendations that displayed a stunning lack of humility: long on admitting he has a problem; short on accepting tangible consequences beyond the ruin to his reputation. Facing up to 10 years in prison, he countered with an offer of probation, which is to say no time in prison. Unless there was a deal in place ahead of time—“You can get 10; you ask for nothing; we won’t object to the minimum”—this legal posturing made no sense. I do not hold the lawyers responsible, with the limited information the public has, but rather believe this was all Anthony.
I can almost see it: the politician who would have thinned out the 2013 mayoral field and then beaten those who stayed in; the Congressman who bullied legislative leaders and lectured policy specialists; the MSNBC regular who was the face of calling for a single-payer medical system but who had little patience for the actual work of legislating; the guy who tried for a comeback nonetheless. That arrogance is what insisted on asking for probation.
Wouldn’t it have made more sense to suggest nine months in prison, one year of home confinement, followed by—what?—two years of something alongside registering as a sex offender? Doesn’t it seem that would have been better received by the sentencing judge, coloring deliberations to Weiner’s benefit? Perhaps he simply couldn’t do it.
Harvey Weinstein should have said nothing. But instead, his response was chaotic, meandering and childish. Deflecting with talk of taking on the gun lobby with the time he’ll have while taking a step back from the movie business sounds like the plot of a bad movie dreamed up by writers he wouldn’t have hired. It was insulting to the substantiated accusations against him, and insulting to the women he victimized. In an increasingly diverse environment with new voices affirming different experiences, Weinstein’s response to the revelations of his behavior serves as a crystal-clear example of why—and how—change happens slowly, and then all at once.
Weinstein and Weiner are just two examples of systemic abuse propped up and enabled by structures and institutions with broken priorities. Moving forward doesn’t require their input.