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Commentary By Seth Barron

New York Pols' Strange Silence on Cy Vance's Harvey Weinstein Horrors

Culture Culture & Society

Shocking claims emerged last week about the handling of the Harvey Weinstein case by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance — but the reports have been met by silence from Vance’s New York political allies in the #MeToo movement.

According to a New York magazine article by Kathy Dobie, Weinstein accuser Ambra Battilana’s credibility was immediately attacked by Vance’s investigators, who appeared to be more concerned with protecting Weinstein than with determining the truth of the allegations. NYPD sex crime detectives were so leery about continuing to cooperate with Vance’s office that they hid Battilana, under an assumed name, in a hotel for five days in April 2015.

Vance dropped the case against Weinstein like it was burning his fingers, claiming there was not enough evidence to go to trial. News that Vance had received $55,000 in campaign contributions from lobbyist and Harvey Weinstein lawyer David Boies — $10,000 after the case was dropped — raised eyebrows.

Yet when the story broke last October, top progressives in New York City had nothing but praise for the DA, who was up for re-election. Mayor Bill de Blasio said he wouldn’t “second-guess” the decisions of the prosecutor, and his spokesperson nonsensically said “the allegations against Mr. Weinstein are obviously very serious and that’s why seasoned detectives from the NYPD handled them so thoroughly.”

Public Advocate Letitia James, a vocal supporter of the #MeToo anti-harassment campaign, said she didn’t understand what the fuss was all about: “I support Cy Vance, I will endorse Cy Vance for re-election and I don’t understand the controversy.”

Last week’s revelations, by a veteran of the NYPD’s renowned Special Victims Division, indicated that Vance’s office leaned on Battilana’s roommates, asking them if she was a prostitute or a stripper, and how often she brought home strange men for sex, promising to review video footage to develop a complete view of her personal life.

Perhaps the DA was just concerned about building a strong case, though Battilana’s sexual history shouldn’t pertain to whether or not she was groped and propositioned by Harvey Weinstein. Vance’s investigation sounds like it was aimed primarily at frightening the accuser and convincing her that it wouldn’t be worth pursuing her complaint.

High-profile Hollywood stars have praised Gov. Andrew Cuomo for ordering Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate Vance’s handling of the case. But local officials have demurred from criticizing their fellow Democrat.

Asked for comment, James would only say that the “allegations” are cause for concern, and that she “awaits the findings from the investigations.” City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, chair of the Committee on Women, insisted, “these are allegations right now.”

It’s true that the case against Vance is only in the “allegation” stage, but the same can be said about Weinstein, who has not been charged with anything or admitted that any of the accusations against him are true.

State Sen. Liz Kreuger, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo: These politicians and many more have been at the forefront of the #MeToo movement in New York. But not one of them has said anything about Vance.

Even Schneiderman, who is supposedly leading the investigation into Vance’s actions, has kept mum on Vance.

Why is everyone so hesitant to criticize the DA? Perhaps it’s not so much what he has done, but what he hasn’t done — which is aggressively pursue corruption in New York.

In March 2017, Acting US Attorney Joon Kim shut down the federal investigation into de Blasio’s pay-to-play fundraising machinations, saying that there wasn’t enough quid-pro-quo evidence to convict him. And based on the new standards for public corruption after the Supreme Court’s McDonnell decision, that was probably true.

But there was no reason for Vance to piggyback on Kim’s announcement and shut down his own unrelated investigation into whether the mayor illegally funnel money to state Senate candidates through party organizations in Ulster and Putnam counties. Vance just used the Kim news as cover to close an investigation against political allies.

Methodical mutual back-scratching defines everything politicians do in New York City, that one-party town where it doesn’t pay to make a fuss. So moral outrage is fine until an ally is the target, and then #MeToo quickly becomes #WhoMe?


Seth Barron is associate editor of City Journal.

This piece originally appeared in New York Post