On Wednesday, Variety revealed that producer and distributor Harvey Weinstein, a man whose reputation precedes him, had lawyered up in preparation for upcoming stories from both the New York Times and the New Yorker regarding allegations of sexual harassment and improper behaviour made against him. Yesterday, the New York Times released their story, detailing several alleged incidents, including one from actress Ashley Judd, and noted that ‘Mr. Weinstein has reached at least eight settlements with women, according to two company officials speaking on the condition of anonymity.’ In a statement to the Times that appeared in the piece, Weinstein said:
‘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.’
His lawyer Lisa Bloom - daughter of Gloria Allred, self-described advocate for women and author of a book The Weinstein Company has optioned for a mini-series - added that ‘he denies many of the accusations as patently false.’ Another lawyer hired by Weinstein, Charles Harder, said the Times’s story was ‘saturated with false and defamatory statements about Harvey Weinstein’. He also said a lawsuit against the paper would be mounted. Harder is best known as the lead attorney for Hulk Hogan during his successful lawsuit against Gawker, which led to the site shutting down. He added that all proceeds from the lawsuit would be donated to women’s organisations.
Weinstein gave his first post-story interview to the New York Post, admitting that he ‘bears responsibility’ for past bad behaviour, but would be suing the paper for $50m for ‘reckless reporting’. The interview, even by Weinstein standards, is a staggering display of sleaze. It’s not quite as off as his statement to the New York Times, which claims he ‘came of age in the 60s and 70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different’ (Weinstein was born in 1952), then misquotes Jay Z before declaring he will take his anger out on the NRA and puts in a final plug about the upcoming Michael Moore movie on Trump his company is distributing.
None of these allegations were unknown or especially secret. Our own Courtney was writing about the phenomenon of ‘Harvey’s girls’, and the oft-repeated stories of the producer’s chosen young female ingenues, mired in rumours about the casting couch and his machinations of fame making. Defamer, the Hollywood industry focused offshoot of Gawker, posted a story in 2015 asking readers to tell them what they knew about the biggest open secret in movies. That same year, Weinstein was questioned by New York Police after an accusation of groping. No charges were made and Weinstein’s lawyer later made a $10,000 donation to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. who had declined to pursue charges.
There’s a moment in the Oscar nominations announcement for 2013, made by Emma Stone and Seth Macfarlane, where, after reading the nominees for Best Actor, Macfarlane jokes ‘Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.’ It got a big laugh. Everybody knew.
Response from the industry itself has been glaring in its silence. Lena Dunham spoke out, as did Brie Larson, two women who have a history of speaking out on such issues. Patricia Arquette tweeted in support of both Judd and actress-director Rose McGowan.
Rebecca Traister wrote for The Cut on why this story took as long as it did to get published despite her ‘having conversations about Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment for more than 17 years.’ The short answer is power. Weinstein had it, he made money for people and got them what he wanted, and that coupled with the general difficulty of reporting on sexual harassment and assault allegations made it a mine field few were willing to navigate.
There’s a reason this case is coming out now, in 2017. We’re in the midst of something of an exodus, in which our industry is seeking to expose the rot of misogyny that has plagued it from the beginning. We saw that with Devin Faraci, we saw it with Harry Knowles, and we see it here, albeit on a far larger scale. Perhaps it’s Trump era fatigue or maybe the internet has made our voices louder when brought together, but as someone who works in pop culture journalism, I can sense the change in the air. And this incident here? This shouldn’t be the end. Weinstein is not the bad apple of the industry. He is the bully the industry aided and abetted for decades because it was financially beneficial to do so. Directors sucked up to him, agents threw their bring young things at him, trade publications bowed to his demands and journalists like me didn’t do enough to listen to those murmurs we always heard in the background.
People are listening, but Weinstein himself is also a relic of the past, one who no longer possesses the same level of clout and influence he once did. The former kingmaker of the indie movie world has long since lost his touch, and The Weinstein Company’s alleged financial troubles are common knowledge. He’s no longer of any use to his old friends, so while they may not speak out against him, they won’t run to defend him. That ambivalence is part of the insidious rot, and it’s made a lot of people complicit for a very long time.