A new women's rights organization is demanding that the head of Miami's Everglades Foundation step down over his longstanding ties with accused serial rapist Harvey Weinstein. But billionaire hedge-fund investor Paul Tudor Jones is pushing back and alleging that the group is actually a front for Big Sugar.
Tudor Jones started the Everglades Foundation back in 1993 in an attempt to replenish Florida's unique ecosystem. But he also has a history of saying demeaning things about women while working closely with Weinstein as a board member of his organization, and he was caught sending emails to the disgraced producer wishing him well as news broke of his alleged sexual misconduct.
Last month, a group called Women United Now started staging protests against Tudor Jones, from the University of Virginia — where he's a major donor — to the Everglades Foundation's yearly gala at the Breakers in Palm Beach to a Miami Heat game last week.
“The Harvey Weinstein scandal has unveiled a cultural problem that was hiding in plain sight," Women United Now founder Catrena Norris Carter tells New Times via email. "Powerful men have been abusing and exploiting women, and other powerful men have been complicit in these actions by ignoring it and worse, covering it up. Paul Tudor Jones is one of these men."
But Tudor Jones claims Carter is simply a front for the corporate interests who oppose Everglades restoration. Tudor Jones' spokesperson alleges that Women United Now is an "astroturf" group funded by the sugar corporations in Central Florida that the Everglades Foundation has sparred with for decades.
"Paul Tudor Jones has worked to protect the Florida Everglades for more than a quarter century," writes Stu Loeser. "The sugar industry has a documented history of supporting front groups that attack Everglades supporters. We have no reason to believe this is not another sugar-fronted operation."
Tudor Jones found himself spotlighted in the spiraling Weinstein scandal after the New York Times released its damning report on the Hollywood mogul's long history of alleged sexual harassment, stalking, threats of bodily violence, and flat-out rape. The Times later published an email that Tudor Jones sent Weinstein on October 7, 2017, praising the filmmaker and wishing him well while he dealt with the fallout.
"I love you,” Jones wrote two days after the Times story broke. “The good news is, this will go away sooner than you think and it will be forgotten!” He added that Weinstein should “focus on the future as America loves a great comeback story." Jones is also being sued in New York federal court alongside Weinstein and other former Weinstein Company board members for allegedly enabling Weinstein's sex-crimes.
Separately, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has also filed a civil-rights lawsuit against the Weinstein Company, which does not mention Tudor Jones by name but does say that Weinstein Company board members were "repeatedly presented with credible evidence of HW's sexual harassment of TWC employees and interns, and his use of corporate employees and resources to facilitate sexual activity with third parties, amidst allegations that HW had engaged in unlawful sexual conduct."
But Carter's group says that's not enough — they want to see Tudor Jones also leave the South Florida environmental group he founded.
The Everglades Foundation is the largest lobbying group fighting on behalf of the Glades; it's had a major impact in pushing conservation efforts through the state Legislature. But other environmental groups have criticized the foundation from the left over the years, complaining that it is too closely tied to the Florida political ecosystem and rolls over too easily in environmental disputes.
In his role with the group, Tudor Jones has fought major battles with Florida's Big Sugar giants, who environmentalists say pollute Florida's waterways. Big Sugar has been accused for years of quietly funding opposition groups, and in 2015 the Tea Party of Miami was caught paying protesters $75 to rally in favor of Big Sugar; that money was never traced back to sugar companies directly, though.
Catrena Carter flat-out denies Loeser's accusations that Big Sugar is paying her group's bills. However, she did not disclose who has provided funds for the group. As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, the group is not legally required to disclose its donors to the public.
"People trying to protect Jones from facing these truths are clearly trying to deflect and make wild, unsubstantiated claims," Carter said via email. "It’s time these people, and groups like the Everglades Foundation, stop protecting predators and stand with the victims. Not sure what is meant by 'Big Sugar' but we are a C4 that accepts donations. We have and are in the process of requesting grants from multiple foundations and non-profits as well as individual fundraising."
Carter was previously a prominent civil-rights organizer in Alabama. Her group has also spent time going after other Weinstein Company board members, including New York Knicks owner James Dolan and Milwaukee Bucks owner Marc Lasry.
"While Paul Tudor Jones is the most troublesome of the Weinstein Board, he is not our sole focus," she said. "We have had similar efforts protesting other board members in other cities like Milwaukee (Marc Lasry) and NYC (James Dolan). We are asking the NBA to censure both owners for their role in protecting the culture of abuse perpetuated by the Weinstein board members."
#JamesDolan owner of the @NYKnicks & @NYRangers helped facilitate & aid Harvey Weinstein's misconduct for years! Dolan himself is no stranger to the culture of sexual harassment either. The @NBA must censure owners like Dolan & #MarcLasry for allowing this misconduct to continue! pic.twitter.com/j9m6uzbixd— Women United (@WomenUnited9) March 19, 2018
Carter's group says Tudor Jones' troubling record goes beyond his work with Weinstein. In 2013, Tudor Jones told a group of students at the University of Virginia that he thinks female stock traders lose their professional "focus" once they have children.
"As soon as that baby’s lips touched that girl’s bosom, forget it,” he said of a former colleague who'd had a child.
And critics like Carter say they find it hard to believe Tudor Jones, like the other Weinstein board members,
knew nothing about Weinstein's disturbing history. New York's attorney general says the Weinstein Company board was notified of multiple harassment complaints made against Weinstein, and at one point debated investigating Weinstein themselves but ultimately declined.
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In December, former Weinstein Company employees filed a class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District for Southern New York that blamed Tudor Jones explicitly.
"Jones knew of Weinstein’s pattern and practice of predatory sexual conduct toward women from his personal relationship with Weinstein and his position as a director of TWC," the legal complaint reads.
On February 20, Jones' attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the case; U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein has yet to rule on those motions.
The Everglades Foundation board is filled with environmentally conscious celebrities like musician and resort mogul Jimmy Buffet and golfer Jack Nicklaus, and philanthropists such as former Miami Herald publisher David Lawrence Jr. and Maurice Ferré Jr., son of the former Miami mayor. Women United is demanding the Glades Foundation board take action.
"His arrogance, money and power — like the other men Weinstein surrounded himself with — leads him to think he can support someone like Weinstein, even after the abuses he had been perpetrating became public, and all will be OK," Norris Carter emailed New Times. "In fact, he said as much to his friend Harvey!"