The dresses and buttons and speeches at the Golden Globes notwithstanding, every new revelation of abuse and sexual assault in Hollywood begs the question: “Why didn’t anyone notice and stop this sooner?” Surely the friends of mega-producers Harvey Weinstein and Brett Ratner, colleagues of news “celebrities” like Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, co-stars of celebrities like Kevin Spacey or hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons could see something was amiss, that under the surface something ugly and evil was happening?
Sadly, in an industry driven by money and “genius” a lot of people appear to have been blissfully oblivious or morally depraved enough to look the other way — in the case of Harvey Weinstein, journalists and colleagues may have known about the accusations of rape and sexual assault for decades. And in a turn of tragedy becoming farce, some of the most powerful figure in Tinsel Town have appointed Anita Hill to chair the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality.
The victims of Harvey Weinstein, and his ilk in Hollywood, deserve better than Anita Hill — and like many Hollywood stories, Hill and her allies have left out some important details.
Before she was Hollywood’s public face of its answer to the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Anita Hill played a different role — political enforcer for President Bill Clinton. Hill appeared on a 1998 episode of Meet the Press with Tim Russert were she echoed Gloria Steinem’s defense of President Clinton against accusations of sexual assault and harassment:
“I think what Ms. Steinem also says that we have to look at the totality of the presidency and how has he been on women’s issues generally? Is he our best bet, notwithstanding some behavior that we might dislike, and I don’t think that most women have come to the point where we have said, ‘Well, this is so bad that even if he is better on the bigger issues, we can’t have him as President,” she told Russert.
Steinem’s original defense of Clinton, in light of current Hollywood revelations, should be more than troubling:
Hill goes on in the interview to dismiss President Clinton’s behavior and her own defense of it by deferring to “larger issues” at stake.
“Larger issues” might very well have been the excuses that echoed in the minds of those who looked the other way whenever they heard an accusation against Harvey Weinstein. The appeal to someone representing more than just “individual behavior,” we can be almost certain, was something insinuated by those tasked with or felt it necessary to defend Harvey Weinstein whenever a new woman came forward over the decades.
What are the victims of Hollywood’s culture of power and silence to think when they are told that things will change and yet one of those figures of change has engaged in the same tactics as the abusers and their enablers?
In the end that is just it. Anita Hill is an enabler. She enabled Bill Clinton and she is enabling future Harvey Weinsteins by undermining the integrity of Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality by turning it into farce.
Ken Blackwell is a Senior Fellow at the American Civil Rights Union and the Family Research Council. He is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission.