Friday November 24, 2017

Harvey Weinstein and others are being held to account, but what about Donald Trump?

Then President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa. on Dec. 15, 2016.

Then President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa. on Dec. 15, 2016. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

Listen 8:58

by Brent Bambury

When the allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior by Harvey Weinstein broke on October 5, 2017, something changed in the way victims behaved.

They became less reticent, more willing to come forward, and the powerful were suddenly vulnerable.

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Harvey Weinstein arrives at The Weinstein Company and Netflix Golden Globes afterparty in Beverly Hills on Jan. 8, 2017. (Chris Pizzello/Associated Press)

Newsweek published a list of famous men publicly accused since Weinstein.

There are 37 of them. The publication admits it's hard to keep up.

Among the accused, Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose and Louis C.K. lost jobs or contracts as a result of the charges. The Weinstein Company fired Harvey Weinstein.

Some women saw in those consequences a turning point, a watershed moment when it came to sexual harassment, and they may be right.

Last year, there were expectations the U.S. election would break ground.

The release of the Access Hollywood tape, a recording of Donald Trump boasting of serial sexual assault, brought the issue of sexual violence into the campaign.

But Trump's election seemed to void the allegations.

Now, as charges against men seem to be weighed more seriously, some are calling for a re-examination of the accusations women made against Donald Trump.

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Demonstrators participate in the #MeToo Survivors' March in response to several high-profile sexual harassment scandals on November 12, 2017 in Los Angeles. (David McNew/Getty Images)

             

Unwanted attention

Jessica Leeds is one of the women who've come forward to accuse Trump of sexual assault or harassment.

The Washington Post lists 13 of them. The White House says they're all lying.

Leeds says her assault happened 30 years ago.

On a flight to New York, she was seated next to Trump in the first class section. Less than an hour into the flight, she says Trump raised the hand rest and began touching her. She fled to the back of the cabin.

"It's been going on for a long, long time. All of it." - Jessica Leeds

At the time, Leeds didn't share her story. As a female executive of that era, she knew men took liberties. ​

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Jessica Leeds arrives at her apartment building, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) (Julie Jacobson/Associated Press)

"It's been going on for a long, long time," Leeds tells me on Day 6. "All of it."

But during one of the Presidential debates, Leeds saw Trump deny that he had done the things he admitted to on the Access Hollywood recording.

She wrote to The New York Times to recount her story and argue that Trump was lying.

Other women joined Leeds with more allegations, but in the end the Electoral College gave Trump the victory.

"It's truly amazing to me that the allegations against Trump didn't have the impact that I had hoped for," Leeds says. "It was very disappointing — very disappointing — that he got elected."

                          

Vindicated by a vote

Even though the allegations were widely discussed during the campaign, 53% of white women cast their votes for Trump.

I asked Leeds why she thought they backed him.

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Patricia Riley Jones attends a 'Women For Moore' rally in support of Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Judge Roy Moore, November 17, 2017, in Montgomery, Alabama. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

"We accepted the sexual impropriety for so long that I don't think it bubbled up enough to stop them voting for him," she says.

"They wanted to believe, desperately, that he would bring change and he would do something that they wanted the government to do."

Leeds also believes Trump voters didn't process all of the evidence against him.

"I think, frankly, in the United States, some people went into the voting booth and they did not want to vote for Clinton, whether [it was] because she was a woman or a Clinton or had been around so long. And they thought she was going to win because the polls had told us so. And I think they said, 'Well, in protest, I'm going to vote for Trump'."

Things could be different for politicians in the post-Weinstein era.

They may be held to higher standards and it might be harder to give sexual assault a pass.

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Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., is shown on July 12 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

Jessica Leeds says the Weinstein story reminds some people they have unfinished business with Trump.

"When the Harvey Weinstein and all these other stories started breaking, a lot more people have come back up to me and we've discussed it. So it has gone on longer than I expected."

Roy Moore, Al Franken and John Conyers are facing major opposition because of allegations of sexual misconduct.

When Trump weighed in on Al Franken, he was instantly called out for hypocrisy.

Once again, Trump's accusers were back in the news.

              

Holding the line

Trump has threatened to sue all of the women who've come forward.

He's disparaged Leeds from the podium and made remarks about her appearance. But neither Leeds nor any of the other women have backed down from their claims.

Roy Moore's campaign has taken the same line against his accusers that Donald Trump's campaign took against his: the women are lying.

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Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Alabama, Roy Moore, speaks at a campaign rally on September 25, 2017 in Fairhope, Alabama. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Leeds says there's no conspiracy and she's never met Trump's other accusers.

"I have not had any contact with these other women, not one contact with them. So we haven't colluded a story. Every story is the same. And it's indicative of his personality and his psychological makeup."

Leeds believes those who are speaking out have credibility.

"Women who have experienced sexual aggression remember whether it happened when they were little kids or whether they were teenagers or whether they were young women or whether they were middle aged women or whether they were old women."

"They remember when it happened, they remember what happened, they remember where it happened. They remember what they had on and they all remember fleeing and never wanting to mention it to anybody — their family, their friends, their spouses, their companions — not to tell anybody."

"And they never forget."

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Protester's signs are left near the White House during the Women's March on Washington on January 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

At the end of our conversation, Jessica Leeds tells me a story about her interactions with journalists that makes me believe her decision to speak out has less to do with politics than it has to do with women.

When a female journalist approaches Leeds, she always asks the journalist if she has a similar experience of sexual aggression she'd like to share.

I asked her why she makes that request.

"I thought somewhat to prove my point that I should ask them what their experience has been. And  sure enough, every one of them — it's been 100 per cent — that the women I've spoken to have experienced some sort of sexual aggression in their life and in their career."

"And I felt it was important to hear that just because, you know, it's a two way street that we're on."