When it comes to this Steve Wynn kerfuffle, as comedienne Joan Rivers was wont to say, “Can we talk?”
First, I’ve only spoken with Steve Wynn on the phone once. It was in the spring of 2009 after his attorney threatened to sue me over a column I’d written in which I used a quote by Mr. Wynn declaring that “Anybody who raises taxes now is purely psychotic.”
We spoke for almost an hour. No lawsuit was filed. And we actually ended up having a very productive chat about education reform.
We also met once in his office at the Wynn Resort on the Strip in 2011, just after Mr. Wynn did an interview, I think on FOX News, blasting ObamaCare. A mutual friend suggested he pick my brain about possible voter registration projects, but we never went beyond that conversation.
And that’s it. In fact, neither I nor my business nor my non-profit organization has ever received a dime from Mr. Wynn or any of his affiliated businesses. So there’s no financial conflict here.
That said, I can tell you this: If I had been the beneficiary of his generosity I sure as shootin’ wouldn’t return his donations based solely on the unsubstantiated sexual misconduct allegations – and let’s be clear here; that’s all they are at this point…allegations – published recently by the Wall Street Journal.
And now would be a good time to remind everyone of that quaint old American tradition of an individual being considered innocent until proven guilty. The operative word being “proven,” not accused.
In addition, all but one of the accusations made against Mr. Wynn in the WSJ story were made anonymously. So much for facing your accuser. And the one individual who was actually named said only that he “repeatedly asked her to spend time with him outside of work.”
Inappropriate, maybe. Sexual assault, hardly.
Plus, multiple other accusers in the story admit that once they made it known that Mr. Wynn’s alleged advances were unwanted, he stopped. Hardly the act of a “predator.”
And then there’s the report by one unnamed woman who says he paid her $1,000 in cash for a massage.
Now, maybe this woman was offended at being asked to give Mr. Wynn a massage and didn’t want to. But let me suggest that a “Help Wanted” ad offering to pay $1,000 for a one-hour massage would result in women lining up around the block looking for an application. And probably a few men, too!
Oh, and by the way, I wonder if those women claimed the $1,000 cash payments on their income tax returns. But that’s another issue altogether.
Let’s get back to recipients of Mr. Wynn’s contributions who actively, often aggressively, sought his financial support in the past but ran from him like the proverbial scalded dog after the WSJ story broke.
Unless the donations they received were obtained by Mr. Wynn illegally or were somehow related to the accusations – which they weren’t – I just don’t see the point in suddenly deciding to return them. Especially, again, over unsubstantiated allegations that Mr. Wynn has denied.
There is one exception: Attorney General Adam Laxalt returned a $5,000 donation from Mr. Wynn. But since the Gaming Control Board – which the AG’s office represents – has opened an investigation in this matter, that’s a legitimate reason. But what about everybody else? Two points…
One, if you somehow now judge Mr. Wynn’s money to be “dirty” money, you should give it ALL back, not just what he may have donated over the last year or two. I mean, how do you say any money given last year is bad, but all the money given for the previous 20 or 30 years during which the alleged conduct occurred is OK?
Makes no sense and is totally hypocritical.
Secondly, if you decide to give any of the money back for any reason, the money should be returned to the DONOR, not given to some charity.
If you no longer want Mr. Wynn’s money, give Mr. Wynn’s money back to Mr. Wynn. To use his money to make a donation to some unrelated charity in a self-serving effort to garner some kind of political brownie points is just plain wrong.
A closing observation – and I KNOW this is gonna get me a ton of “male privilege” hate mail…
Unlike the Jefferson Starship song, we didn’t build this city on rock-and-roll. Las Vegas was built on gambling, booze and sex. Sexy women are, and always have been, featured in advertising from here to the moon. Sex sells. And it oozes all over the Strip.
Our nickname is “Sin City” – which has nothing to do with honoring your father and mother. And the ongoing marketing slogan is, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” – which has nothing to do with our all-you-can-eat buffets.
So for people to be shocked – SHOCKED! – that some kind of sexcapades may have occurred in this decidedly adult playground is ridiculous. This ain’t the Bible Belt – not that there’s anything wrong with that. This is Vegas.
Or as Joan Rivers’ was also wont to say, “Oh, grow up!”