Nevada leaders are framing the resignation of legendary businessman Steve Wynn as a sign that even the most wealthy and connected can’t escape consequences of sexual misconduct in the era of the Me Too movement.
The 76-year-old casino magnate, often lauded as a visionary in Vegas’ evolution, has pushed back against a Wall Street Journal report late last month that described a “decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct” by Wynn, including the allegations of a manicurist who said that Wynn forced her to have sex and a $7.5 million settlement later paid to her by Wynn.
He said any assertions that he assaulted someone were “preposterous” and argued there’s a rush to judgment, but conceded in a resignation announcement Tuesday that the accusations have created a major distraction for the company.
Still, several elected officials reached by The Nevada Independent said they sided with the accusers.
“I believe the women who had the courage to share their appalling accounts of Mr. Wynn's behavior,” said Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is running for Senate. “This type of misconduct should always result in serious consequences, and his decision to resign is a step towards accountability."
Democratic Rep. Dina Titus hailed the development as a leveling of the playing field.
“Steve Wynn’s resignation proves once again that powerful figures, whether they are in Las Vegas, Hollywood, or Washington, cannot escape the repercussions stemming from sexual harassment abuses,” she said. “We must continue to change the culture at all levels so any abuser, anywhere, faces consequences.”
Titus pointed out that the House on Tuesday passed the Congressional Accountability Reform Act, which is aimed at overhauling the sexual harassment and discrimination response process in Congress in the wake of several high-profile harassment cases involving lawmakers.
“I was proud to support this effort and hope other institutions and businesses around the nation follow our lead to provide all parties involved with streamlined avenues to justice,” she said.
Amy Vilela, a progressive Democrat running for the 4th Congressional District, asked how many careers would have to end before industry leaders admit their transgressions and commit to a culture change.
"Mr. Wynn's contribution to the casino industry is undeniable. However, it's unfortunate he was unable to translate his visionary leadership into an honest dialogue of his apparent failings,” said Vilela, who is running for a seat that is open after Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen faced allegations of harassment and announced he wouldn’t run again. “As a former Chief Financial Officer, I commend Mr. Wynn for recognizing his continued presence in the company is untenable for shareholders, customers and most importantly, Wynn Resorts' employees."
Democratic gubernatorial candidates and Clark County commissioners Chris Giunchigliani and Steve Sisolak both agreed Wynn’s resignation was the right move. They pointed out that sexual misconduct allegations in the past have been ignored and allowed to continue with impunity.
"Sexual harassment in the workplace has been become all too common and all too commonly accepted as business as usual,” said Sisolak, who vowed to bring people together to find solutions for the problem if elected as governor. “We need to take on this issue on all fronts.”
Giunchigliani committed herself to a long-term solution, pointing to her work developing a comprehensive anti-bullying and anti-harassment policy as a member of the commission.
“The charges against Steve Wynn were part of a near-daily drumbeat of new cases of intimidation, bullying, harassment and abuse as women are finally being listened to and having their experiences taken seriously,” she said. “Now we need to focus on ensuring that this does not continue to happen by putting clear laws on the books so that any abusers are held accountable.”
Others who shared their thoughts:
- Democratic state Sen. Pat Spearman, who’s running for the 4th Congressional District, said “the #MeToo Movement is one that has awakened a sleeping giant. Women from ALL corners of the globe are seizing this opportunity to challenge the culture of "Boys will be boys". We are reclaiming our collective voice. We are saying Time's Up. We are no longer going to sit and allow anyone to minimize our voice or perpetuate a dehumanizing narrative about us because the subject of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment is ‘uncomfortable.’”
- Republican Rep. Mark Amodei spoke to a reporter after casting a vote on Wednesday evening. "What he's meant as an operator over the...decades is pretty clear," Amodei said about Wynn’s legacy. "Nobody's condoning" any of the alleged behavior, he continued, adding that such allegations are surprising for people to hear when it hits closer to home. "It's just a tough day for everybody involved.”
- Republican Victoria Seaman, who’s running for the 3rd Congressional District, said, “As a woman and mother I take these types of allegations very seriously. I think Mr. Wynn made the right decision in stepping down. Wynn Resorts needs somebody at the helm who is free of this kind of baggage. Gaming is obviously the lifeblood of our economy. We need to make sure it is operated in the most ethical manner possible. I hope that this incident serves as a wake up call to any other bad actors in the industry.”
- Democrat Reuben D’Silva, who’s running in the 1st Congressional District, said: “Mr. Wynn's resignation will undoubtedly send shockwaves throughout the gaming industry....and for all the right reasons. It is a well known fact that some of the most blatant examples of workplace sexual harassment and abuse take place on the Las Vegas Strip … I stand by these women. By speaking up they have displayed incredible courage. It would be remiss of the public not to acknowledge these women workers for speaking up against one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in America.”
- Democratic Assemblyman Nelson Araujo, who’s running for secretary of state, said: "It's about time. Abuse of power by CEOs is disgraceful, and we need to be holding sexual harassers and assailants accountable in every industry and profession. I am glad to see the business community take this step by replacing Steve Wynn. Nonetheless, this does not take away the terrible harm done to the victims, so as a community we must support them and make the further changes needed to assure that every Nevadan has a safe and respectful workplace each and every day.”
- The campaign of Republican Treasurer Dan Schwartz, who’s running for governor, pointed to a statement in which Schwartz criticized his primary opponent Adam Laxalt for not speaking out as Wynn was investigated and deposed from his leadership role with the Republican National Committee. Attorney General Laxalt, who’s running for governor, has returned some Wynn campaign donations but told the Las Vegas Review-Journal he wouldn’t comment because his office provides counsel for the Gaming Control Board, which is investigating Wynn.
Disclosure: Several Indy donors, including Wynn, are mentioned in this story. You can see a full list of donors here.
This story was updated at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 7, 2017 to add more reaction.