A top adviser to New York governor and 2020 presidential aspirant Andrew Cuomo represented former Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein as he tried to spin his way out of a sexual assault investigation.
Weinstein stands accused of groping model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez. Her claims of assault sparked a New York Police Department investigation into Weinstein’s conduct in 2015. Legal observers believe the Gutierrez case could result in a sexual assault charge against Weinstein. It was Gutierrez who wore a wire in the TriBeCa Grand hotel to capture Weinstein on tape pleading with her to come into his room for “five minutes” to watch him shower. That infamous “don’t embarrass me in the hotel” tape is presented below. It appears to show Weinstein admitting to touching Gutierrez’s breast the previous day.
The tape only came out recently, amid new harassment allegations against Weinstein by numerous Hollywood starlets. But two years ago, Weinstein managed to wiggle out of the case with no charges against him at that time. He did so, it appears, in part by playing hardball in the media.
When the controversy surfaced, Weinstein hired top Andrew Cuomo adviser Ken Sunshine to represent him on the public-relations front. Sunshine and Weinstein have been photographed together. Sunshine was accused of planting stories in the press bludgeoning the female accuser’s reputation, though Sunshine denied the allegations.
“The influential public relations strategist, Ken Sunshine, known for his bare-knuckled tactics, put out statements on Mr. Weinstein’s behalf. And the tabloids ran stories suggesting she was selling her story for $100,000 and had tried use the groping allegation to blackmail him. Mr. Weinstein planted stories to sow doubts about her credibility, said someone familiar with the efforts who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“These types of matters are considered in two forums; one is the court of law, but probably the more important forum is the court of public opinion,” said Mr. Heller, who represented Ms. Battilana for a few days before being replaced by another lawyer, David Godosky. “They tried to spin an opinion in court of public opinion in a way that would break her down and make her go away.”
Mr. Sunshine said, “I categorically deny having anything to do with planting stories on anyone.'”
Sunshine is a Cuomo adviser and one of Cuomo’s personal friends. Cuomo and Weinstein have been photographed shaking hands.
Sunshine was quoted in a January 2015 New York Times piece, which came out less than three months before the wiretapped incident between Weinstein and Gutierrez in the hotel. Sunshine spoke in his capacity as a consultant for both Andrew Cuomo and his father, former governor Mario Cuomo:
“Ken Sunshine, a public relations consultant who has advised both men for nearly 40 years, said that Andrew Cuomo had simply adjusted his style to accommodate a much different political and media environment than his father had confronted.
“Comparing them is impossible — the times are totally different,” Mr. Sunshine said. “But they were, and are, brilliant for their times.'”
Sunshine also co-founded a curious nonprofit group called New Yorkers United Together, which came under scrutiny from ethics watchdogs for running a pro-Cuomo ad on the issue of immigration while claiming that it was not linked to the governor. The Times reported:
“All of the group’s co-founders are close friends of Mr. Cuomo’s. Three celebrities who spoke in the ad said they were asked to do so by Mr. Cuomo’s office, and another person said he was asked by the office to identify others who might be willing to participate…
…New Yorkers United Together was founded in late March by Steven M. Cohen, a former top aide to Mr. Cuomo; Christine C. Quinn, the former New York City Council speaker; and the public relations consultant Ken Sunshine…“It’s an informal group established in reaction to Donald Trump’s travel ban,” Mr. Sunshine said, referring to the president’s order blocking people from six mostly Muslim nations from entering the United States. “We were discussing what to do, and we came up with this.'”
Sunshine is also a fundraiser and reported friend of Hillary Clinton, who attended a 2015 event hosted by Sunshine, his wife, and a onetime figure in the Clinton White House Lincoln Bedroom donor scandal. Here is a photo of Sunshine’s daughter meeting Hillary Clinton, with Sunshine (the gray curly-haired gentleman) on the edge of the frame:
Photo courtesy of Jessica H. Sunshine’s Facebook page
Democratic politicians are under fire for accepting copious donations for years from Weinstein, whose left-wing Tinseltown crowd propped up candidates like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Clinton said that she would give the equivalent of her Weinstein donations to charity, while the DNC drew criticism for instead diverting the equivalent of its Weinstein money to pro-Democrat groups that it claims support women.
Sunshine also did publicity for Ben Affleck, a pro-Democrat actor who made his career in Hollywood as the star of Weinstein’s films at Miramax. Affleck sent in a roast of Sunshine for an award ceremony in 2013 when Sunshine was given a Bella Fella award from the Bella Abzug Leadership Institute, which seeks to “mentor and train middle and high school girls and college age women in the development of confidence and the critical skills needed to become effective, dynamic and visionary 21st century leaders as well as active and creative participants in civic, political, corporate and community life.”