Republican finance chair resigns amid sexual harassment claims

Steve Wynn steps down after being accused of routinely harassing female employees

File image of Steve Wynn in  Beverly Hills, California, US.  File photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

File image of Steve Wynn in Beverly Hills, California, US. File photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

 

Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn has resigned as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) amid allegations of sexual harassment and assault.

Mr Wynn has been a prolific Republican donor and led the RNC’s fundraising efforts during president Donald Trump’s first year, helping the committee rake in more than US$130 million (€104m).

“Today I accepted Steve Wynn’s resignation as Republican National Committee finance chair,” said RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that a number of women said they were harassed or assaulted by Mr Wynn, the chairman and chief executive of Wynn Resorts. Mr Wynn has denied the allegations. One case led to a US$7.5 million (€6.3m) settlement with a manicurist, the newspaper reported.

Mr Wynn confirmed his resignation in a statement released on Saturday. “The unbelievable success we have achieved must continue. The work we are doing to make America a better place is too important to be impaired by this distraction,” Mr Wynn said.

Mr Wynn is a prominent figure in the casino resort business and a onetime rival of Mr Trump.

After previously trying to stay nonpartisan, he threw his support behind MrTrump in the 2016 campaign and donated money to several Republican causes, including the RNC.

Mr Wynn was chosen by Mr Trump to lead the RNC’s fundraising effort, and he contributed more than US$600,000 (€482,000) to Republican causes last year, according to the Federal Election Commission.

A person with direct knowledge of the situation said Mr Trump had signed off on the decision for Mr Wynn to resign.

Since 2013, Mr Wynn has contributed nearly US$2.4 million (€1.93m) to Republican candidates and party organisations around the country, including 2017 special election winners as well as dozens of state Republican Party committees.

The allegations against Mr Wynn have come during a wave of sexual misconduct claims against prominent media, entertainment and political figures that gained momentum last fall after the emergence of detailed allegations of rape and harassment involving movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

‘Hostile environment’

The Wall Street Journal said former and current Wynn Resorts staff members it interviewed had accused Mr Wynn of creating a hostile work environment for women and of regularly pressuring employees to perform sex acts.

“The idea that I ever assaulted any woman is preposterous,” Mr Wynn said in a statement on Friday.

“The instigation of these accusations is the continued work of my ex-wife, Elaine Wynn, with whom I am involved in a terrible and nasty lawsuit in which she is seeking a revised divorce settlement.”

Democrat donations

During the autumn, RNC officials, including Ms McDaniel, noted that Weinstein had been a top donor for Democrats, including 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

In early October, Ms McDaniel tweeted that if the Democratic National Committee “truly stands up for women like they say they do, then returning Weinstein’s dirty money should be a no-brainer”.

The RNC has not yet said whether it will return any money donated by Mr Wynn.

Mr Wynn was among the organisers of Mr Trump’s fundraiser last week at the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida to celebrate the anniversary of the inauguration. Mr Trump was unable to attend because of the federal government shutdown. Mr Wynn also helped put together high-dollar events in Dallas last October and New York City in December.

Mr Trump, addressing Nevada supporters in February 2016, praised Mr Wynn as a “great friend of mine”.

“Steve is always calling. He’s always got advice. Right, Steve? ‘Donald, I think you ought to do this and that’,” Mr Trump said at the time. “His advice, I like to listen to, I’ll be honest with you.”

Members of the RNC are gathering in Washington next week and are expected to approve a new finance chair. The next chair will be voted on after the recommendation of Mr Trump and Ms McDaniel.–PA and Reuters