More Than Two Weeks Later, Harvard Pulls Plug on Harvey Weinstein African-American Honor, But What About the Money Trail?

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CAMBRIDGE — Days after a New Boston Post exposé documented in detail Harvard University’s 2014 awarding of its W.E.B. Du Bois medal to embattled Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein, the elite Ivy League institution has elected to rescind the honor — but will the school’s affiliated nonprofit theater act similarly with Weinstein’s financial largesse?

Weinstein, the subject of an explosive October 5 New York Times report alleging a lengthy history of sexual abuse and subsequent efforts to cover it up through intimidating tactics, was one of eight honored with the prestigious social justice award in September 2014 by Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. Earlier this week, the director of Hutchins Center, Professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, did not respond to New Boston Post’s request for comment regarding Weinstein’s award.

According to the Harvard Crimson, the Hutchins Center’s executive committee — which consists of five professors — met Tuesday night and decided to strip Weinstein of the honor. The group had previously voted unanimously in 2014 to award Weinstein with the medal, known as the university’s most prestigious recognition in terms of contributions to African and African-American culture. Honored that same evening alongside Weinstein were Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, and Harry Belafonte.

“We have voted unanimously to rescind the Du Bois Medal awarded to Mr. Weinstein in 2014,” the group said in a statement provided to the Crimson. “We stand with the women who have courageously come forward to fight for themselves and indeed for all of those who have experienced similar abuse.”

The State University of University at Buffalo, Weinstein’s alma mater, announced on October 11 its decision to revoke an honorary degree given to the Hollywood kingpin in 2000.

Adding to the intrigue regarding Harvard’s decision to honor Weinstein is that the outfit which presented the medal on his behalf during the awards ceremony, the Harvard-associated American Repertory Theater, just months later landed a $600,000 donation stemming from an item sold in an auction that was actually part of an AIDS benefit gala. According to a New York Times report published only weeks before the Manhattan broadsheet dropped its Weinstein sexual abuse bombshell, the Hollywood mogul pulled some strings to ensure that two items would be auctioned off by amfAR, a New York City-based AIDS charity, and would go to a specific Cambridge-based and Harvard-linked nonprofit — the American Repertory Theater. 

Per the Times report:

The package eventually landed a $900,000 bid — with a stipulation from Weinstein that $600,000 go towards the Harvard-affiliated American Repertory Theater. 

Additional details reported by the Times indicate that the American Repertory Theater promised Weinstein it would reimburse him and other investors “for a $1.25 million payment and $500,000 charitable contribution” toward the Finding Neverland show “if they could get third parties to donate those amounts.”

In April four members of amfAR’s 19-person board contacted New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to complain. 

The Times did not mention that Belafonte, a W.E.B. Du Bois medal recipient alongside Weinstein the same night in 2014, also serves on amfAR’s board and backed the board’s chairman, fashion designer Kenneth Cole, in his decision to direct the money to Weinstein and the American Repertory Theater.

Months earlier, Diane Paulus, the art director of the American Repertory Theater and a Harvard professor, presented Weinstein that September evening with the W.E.B. Du Bois medal.

The video footage from the awards ceremony had previously been available for viewing on the Hutchins Center website, but as of Wednesday, had been locked and password-protected.

Below is the footage of Paulus’s introduction of Weinstein in its entirety, first published by New Boston Post on Monday morning:

Paulus has declined through an American Repertory Theater spokesperson to speak to New Boston Post. 

Instead, theater spokesperson Rebecca Low Curtiss directed New Boston Post to a statement released earlier this month, regarding Weinstein:

“While I never experienced this side of Harvey in my working relationship with him, I am appalled by his behavior, and I stand strongly with of all the women who have had the courage to come forward.”

Weinstein, in his remarks, made sure to single out Paulus — and Belafonte — for praise.

WATCH — Weinstein’s W.E.B. Du Bois acceptance remarks: