Over the weekend, Pitchfork published a lengthy piece on Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler, alleging that his earnest and virtuous public persona was more complicated behind the scenes. The piece cited three unnamed women who had sexual interactions with Butler, two of which were consensual, that they came to feel were inappropriate; the Arcade Fire fans were between the ages of 18 and 23, while Butler was in his late thirties. A fourth person, who is non-binary, claimed Butler sexually assaulted them twice in 2015 when they were 21.
Butler responded with a lengthy statement, admitting he’d had “relationships outside of [his] marriage,” including with the four people who spoke to Pitchfork, but he maintained they were all consensual. You can read the piece in full here and draw your own conclusions. But at least one thing is undisputed: Butler hired New York flack Risa Heller to handle his crisis P.R. On Butler’s behalf, Heller provided lengthy statements from both him and his bandmate/wife Régine Chassagne, and offered to put the website “in contact with different women who had consensual sexual experiences with him in the past.”
Heller is a notorious publicist in the tristate area, who came up working for Sen. Chuck Schumer and former New York Gov. David Paterson before launching her own consultancy firm. She became a regular feature of both New York politics and media, taking on clients like Airbnb, Major League Soccer's New York City FC, the Metropolitan Opera, and Andrew Cuomo’s ex-girlfriend, Sandra Lee. BuzzFeed News once described her as “sharp, experienced, and one of the most well-informed gossips in the city.”
Heller, a Hillary Clinton donor who reportedly kept a “Clinton pillow on a couch in her office,” made a habit of representing Democrats — if sometimes controversial ones, like Anthony Weiner. Per BuzzFeed: “Heller has for years provided free counsel to the scandal-prone former member of Congress, from his first tweeted dick pic to his failed mayoral run to the most recent episode, which involved sending sexually explicit messages to a 15-year-old girl.” But during the Trump years, she also took on two more scandalous clients in Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
According to Politico, Heller represented Kushner Cos. for roughly 18 months, until they parted ways in late 2017 under disputed circumstances. Politico characterized the relationship as primarily concerned with “real estate,” rather than politics, but that the two blended once Heller continued serving as Kushner’s spokesperson after the 2016 election. In late 2016, Politico reported, Ivanka Trump hired Heller separately to help with the rollout of Women Who Work, her 2017 self-help book about “self actualization” which the New York Times described as “witlessly derivative,” and the New Yorker called “a painfully oblivious book for basically no one.” Heller also reportedly worked on Ivanka’s ethics disclosures, before moving on in July 2017.
One thing’s for certain: No one calls Risa Heller when things are going well. As she once told Crain’s New York: “I can manage big problems…A lot of people are not born with the temperament to say, ‘You have a huge problem and here's how we're going to try to fix it.’”
An earlier version of this piece stated that three of the alleged interactions had been consensual. In fact, Pitchfork alleges that two were consensual.