Awarded Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein is at the center of a scandal after dozens of women came out with the claims that he made unwanted sexual advances on them. Weinstein was fired from his own company, while many of his associates, including those in the world of politics, were criticized for remaining silent about the producer’s alleged actions.
New York Times’ reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor broke the scandalous story, after conducting interviews with several women who claimed to had been attacked by Weinstein, alleging that practice could have lasted for decades.
One of the first testimonies came from a famous actress Ashley Judd, who told reporters about her experience with Weinstein back in 1997. She said she had been invited to the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel for what was supposed to be a business meeting with a successful and influential producer. Instead, she had been instructed to come to his room, where he welcomed her in a bathrobe, asking the young actress to give him a massage or watch him shower.
Many other testimonies showed a similar pattern of Weinstein’s alleged behaviour: turning a supposed business meeting into a casual rendez-vous at the last moment, welcoming women in a bathrobe or underwear and making inappropriate requests, using power as a tool for ransom.
“I said no, a lot of ways, a lot of times, and he always came back at me with some new ask,” Judd told New York Times. “It was all this bargaining, this coercive bargaining.”
Judd managed to resist Weinstein’s advances and continue her work despite what she described as producer’s “subtle threats” that he would use his influence to put an end to her movie career.
The report also mentioned the case of actress Rose McGowan, then 23-year old star of the movie “Scream”, who was given 100.000 dollars in a settlement after an “episode” with Weinstein in a hotel room during Sundance Festival in 1997. The producer later said that the settlement shouldn’t be considered an admission of guilt.
Allegations of Rape
After the initial story broke out, scores of women from the world of show business came out with new accusations.
The New Yorker followed with a report bringing stories of thirteen women describing their experiences with the producer. Three of them accused Weinstein of rape, including Asia Argento, Italian actress and director.
According to her testimony, she was invited to a party organized by Weinstein’s company Miramax at French Riviera in 1997. However, once she got there with one of the co-producers, she realized that there was no party, and she was left alone in a hotel room with Weinstein. After a short argument with him, she was overpowered. The incident had a profound effect on her life, says Argento.
“The thing with being a victim is I felt responsible,” she told New Yorker. “Because, if I were a strong woman, I would have kicked him in the balls and run away. But I didn’t. And so I felt responsible.”
A more recent story came from Italian actress Ambra Batillana, who made a complaint to New York Police Department about the producer’s behavior during a business meeting, which Weinstein used to make advances towards the acteess and invite her to his hotel room. Before the follow-up meeting, Batillana was wired by the police, managing to make an audio recording of his inappropriate offers and requests. Batillana said Weinstein used his influence to publish details from her past, and the charges were never filed.
Decades Without Consequences
After the scandal broke out, it turned out that Weinstein’s behaviour has been an “open secret” in Hollywood for decades. Some of the famous victim’s testimonies, often in the form of hearsay and speculations, were even published on various gossip sites and blogs.
Interesting enough, actor Seth McFarlane even made a very explicit joke about Weinstein and his practice during the 2013 Oscar ceremony. After reading out the names of women nominated for Best Supporting Actress award, he added: “Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein”.
Following the publication of Kantor’s and Twohey’s story, a former New York Times reporter Sharon Waxman criticized her ex employer, claiming they axed the similar story about Weinstein and his colleague Fabrizio Lombardo back in 2004. Waxman claimed the editors “neutered” the story after interventions from actors Matt Damon and Rusell Crowe, who phoned the NYT office to vouch for Lombardo. Damon and New York Times denied these allegations.
Many of the Weinstein’s victims and his associates were silenced by non-disclosure agreements or fear that the powerful producer could use his influence to negativelly affect their career. It was made clear in both articles that certain employees of the producer’s companies, Miramax and Weinstein, were aware of his behavior, but chose not to act out of fear of retaliation. Some even claim that he used female executives and producers to schedule the meetings with actresses, using them as a way to ease the concerns of young women.
In the first reaction to the news, Weinstein has partially accepted responsibility for his actions.
“I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it. Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go.” He added that he was working with therapists and planning to take a leave of absence to “deal with this issue head-on.” Lisa Bloom, a lawyer advising Weinstein, said in a statement that “he denies many of the accusations as patently false”.
Weinstein was fired from his namesake company, after a third of the board members handed in their resignations. Bloom was also fired from the company after the board was unhappy with her handling of the crisis.
“BAFTA has informed Harvey Weinstein that his membership has been suspended, effective immediately” https://t.co/IlYHiI8L4B
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) October 11, 2017
Many in the Hollywood elite have condemned the producer’s behavior. Actor George Clooney called it “indefensible”. Jennifer Lawrence, who won the Oscar for her role in Weinstein’s movie Silver Linings Playbook, said she was deeply disturbed. Angelina Jolie testified that she had “uncomfortable experience” with Weinstein when she was younger, avoiding him ever since and advising everybody else to be careful around him. Jessica Chastain said Weinstein’s behavior was appalling and very, very wrong.
Weinstein’s former protege, Gwyneth Paltrow, also came out with accusations against the producer, claiming he harrassed her in the 1990s after she had been given a role in Emma, a movie adaptation of famous Jane Austen’s novel. The actress said she confided about the incident to her then-boyfriend, actor Brad Pitt, who confronted the producer and warned him to stay away from Paltrow.
Weinstein described himself as a “liberal lion” and was a major donor to the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns. Former US President Barack Obama’s daughter Malia was an intern at one of his companies in 2017. Clinton has since condemned the producer.
Statement from Secretary Clinton on Harvey Weinstein: pic.twitter.com/L1l2wl9l0I
— Nick Merrill (@NickMerrill) October 10, 2017
However, Clinton was criticised for reacting only after dozens of accusations against Weinstein mounted up, as well as avoiding to mention the issue in any of her subsequent public appearances. After similar criticism, Obama also issued a statement.
“Michelle and I have been disgusted by the recent reports about Harvey Weinstein. Any man who demeans and degrades women in such a fashion needs to be condemned and held accountable, regardless of wealth or status,” he said.