Fact-checkers prove that Michelle Obama really did praise convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein

 April 28, 2024

Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein is back in the news again after his New York rape conviction was overturned on appeal, as are some of the prominent figures who were once closely aligned with the imprisoned sexual assaulter.

That includes former first lady Michelle Obama, who previously praised Weinstein as a "wonderful human being" and "good friend," as confirmed by the fact-checkers at Snopes.

To be sure, Obama's complimentary remarks about Weinstein just over a decade ago were made years before the sleazy former Hollywood producer faced criminal charges for his sexual exploitation of young actresses, but even then his grotesque and abusive behavior was something of an open secret that was commonly discussed.

Michelle Obama praised Harvey Weinstein

The confirmation from Snopes came in response to the viral circulation of social media of a video clip of a 2013 White House event, a Careers in Film Symposium, that was hosted by then-first lady Obama and organized by Weinstein.

"I want to start by thanking Harvey Weinstein for organizing this amazing day," Obama told the group of students pursuing careers in the entertainment industry. "Harvey. This is possible because of Harvey. He is a wonderful human being, a good friend, and just a powerhouse."

"And the fact that he and his team took the time to make this happen for all of you should say something not about me or about this place, but about you. Everybody -- we are here because of you," she added.

Snopes further pointed out that, rather tellingly in light of his later convictions for rape and sexual assault, The Hill reported at the time that Weinstein, a "major bundler for President Obama," told the gathered students at the symposium, "I never let anybody tell me no, even the White House."

Weinstein's New York conviction overturned on a technicality

The Associated Press reported Thursday that the New York Supreme Court overturned on a technicality Weinstein's 2020 conviction for rape, for which he is currently serving a 23-year prison sentence in an upstate correctional facility.

In a 4-3 decision, the court's majority determined that "the trial court erroneously admitted testimony of uncharged, alleged prior sexual acts" along with questions about his prior alleged "bad behavior," if he had testified on the stand, which the majority deemed to be "highly prejudicial" to the jury and "an abuse of judicial discretion" by the since-retired trial judge.

Weinstein's defense attorneys had appealed his initial conviction, and though the appellate court ultimately upheld that conviction, it nonetheless warned against unnecessarily "destroying a defendant’s character under the guise of prosecutorial need," and further asserted that defendants could be held to account "only for the crime charged and, thus, allegations of prior bad acts may not be admitted against them for the sole purpose of establishing their propensity for criminality."

New York decision could impact pending appeal of California conviction

In addition to the New York conviction, Weinstein's attorneys have also appealed his 2022 rape conviction in California, for which he received a 16-year prison sentence, with a similar complaint about the judge and prosecution sharing prejudicial information about uncharged alleged acts with the jury.

Those attorneys now intend to use the New York Supreme Court's decision to bolster their arguments during a hearing next month that Weinstein's California conviction must be overturned for the same reasons.

The AP noted that despite winning his appeal on a technicality -- Weinstein by no means was exonerated or cleared of wrongdoing -- he will remain in prison in New York because of the pending California sentence, not to mention the fact that New York prosecutors vowed to retry the convicted rapist and at least one of his victims has already expressed her intent to testify against him again.

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