On Thursday, the New York Times published an explosive exposé detailing almost three decades of alleged sexual harassment by the so-called “King of Hollywood,” producer Harvey Weinstein. Over the course of a months-long investigation, award-winning journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey spoke to several dozen colleagues, former colleagues, associates, assistants and industry peers to paint a picture that is more than mildly disturbing. On Friday, the board of the Weinstein company announced the film titan would be taking a leave of absence to deal with the allegations— but on the weekend, Weinstein was outright fired. Here, everything you need to know about the sexual harassment scandal shaking Hollywood.
You’ve probably heard his name before, but for those who need a quick refresher: Harvey Weinstein is a 65-year-old mega-producer, commonly considered to be among the biggest — if not the biggest — fish in the entertainment industry pond. He’s credited with launching the careers of era-defining stars like Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon and Jennifer Lawrence. In the ’80s and early ’90s, Weinstein built his name by turning indie movies — The Crying Game, Pulp Fiction, Good Will Hunting, Shakespeare In Love — into mainstream box office smashes and awards season victors.
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In 2005, he left his position as the head of Miramax to found The Weinstein Company. He has been married twice — first to his former assistant Eve Chilton (1984–2004), and for the last 10 years to English fashion designer Georgina Chapman. He has five children, umpteen awards, and, as of last week, one serious scandal on his hands.
What are the allegations against him?
The Times story exposes a history of alleged harassment longer than Weinstein’s IMDB page, including an accusation from the actress Ashley Judd, who claims that Weinstein invited her to a breakfast meeting at his hotel in the late ’90s, and then called her up to his room where he offered her a massage and asked if she would watch him shower.
The article goes on to detail 30 years of sexual impropriety alleged by multiple individuals who worked for Weinstein. Central to the Times’ story is a 2014 memo written by Weinstein employee Lauren O’Connor, who informed senior executives at the Weinstein Co. about what she called “a toxic environment for women at this company.” The overarching narrative around Weinstein’s alleged conduct is that he has used his power and position to harass actresses and other women who work for him. And that because of his influence, Hollywood has kept it a secret.
Is this the first we’re hearing about these kinds of allegations?
Publicly, Weinstein has often positioned himself as a champion of women, stumping for Hillary Clinton and participating in the Women’s March in January. But Judd told the NYT, “Women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time, and it’s simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly.”
Two years ago, the gossip website Gawker published a call-out, asking readers to “Tell Us What You Know About Harvey Weinstein’s ‘Open Secret’.” This came shortly after Weinstein was questioned (but ultimately not charged) by police because of allegations raised by an Italian actress named Ambra Battilana, who told the NYPD that Weinstein had groped her breasts and put his hands up her skirt when she went to his New York office for a business meeting. At the time the D.A. said that the available evidence did not support criminal charges. However, on Thursday evening, the NY Daily News published a story that claims Weinstein donated $10,000 to that same D.A. a few months after charges were dropped. Huh.
Has Weinstein responded?
Yes. When it was rumoured that a story was coming in the NYT, Weinstein told The Hollywood Reporter: “The story sounds so good, I want to buy the rights.” After last week’s story broke, he appeared to be taking matters more seriously, releasing a statement to the Times through his lawyer:
“I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behaviour and work places were different. I have since learned it’s not an excuse, in the office — or out of it. To anyone. . . . I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it.” (Read the full statement here.)
Weinstein went on to explain that he has enlisted the services of noted civil rights lawyer Lisa Bloom to “tutor [him]” in the ways of appropriate treatment of women. It was a bit of a curve ball, since Bloom has famously represented female accusers in cases against Bill Cosby and Bill O’Reilly. Her mom — the famous civil rights lawyer Gloria Allred, was not impressed. Bloom tweeted on the weekend that she had resigned from his legal team.
Will there be a legal battle?
It’s so far unclear whether any of Weinstein’s accusers intend to have their day in court. According to the Times’ sources, at least eight women have reached legal settlements with the man they say harassed them, which could preclude any further legal action. There is also the matter of the Statute of Limitations, which is three years in New York State (in Canada, we have no time limitations on reporting sexual harassment).
Meanwhile, Weinstein’s top lawyer Charles Halder has said his client plans to sue the NYT for a story that he claims is “saturated with false and defamatory statements about Harvey Weinstein.” (Halder is the same legal eagle who successfully represented Melania Trump in her libel lawsuit against the Daily Mail).
Has anyone else weighed in?
Lena Dunham, Amber Tamblyn (who recently wrote a searing NYT op-ed titled “I’m Done With Not Being Believed), and Rose McGowan (who, according to the Times, reached an undisclosed settlement with Weinstein in 1997) were among the first to express their support for Weinstein’s accusers Thursday afternoon on Twitter. Since then, powerful voices including Judd Apatow and Brie Larson have also spoken out. No doubt they won’t be the last. And of course there will be pressure on the actresses who have worked closely with Weinstein to weigh in.
Who knows? Other than the fact that everybody in Hollywood will be talking about this story, it’s hard to predict what the future holds. The Times piece could potentially prompt other women to come forward. (The paper reported that the decision to fire him was made “in light of new information about misconduct” that has emerged in the past few days.”) And according to The Hollywood Reporter, The New Yorker is also working on a story about Weinstein’s alleged exploits (written by the journalist Ronan Farrow — son of Mia and Woody Allen, though he is estranged from his father). Weinstein has said that he will “deal with this issue head on,” though he denies many of the specific claims made in the NYT article, including Judd’s story.
Fun fact: This is happening almost exactly a year after the Donald Trump “grab her by the pussy” scandal, when we were all talking about powerful men and how they view women.
Yes…yes, it is.