By Steven Martin Kensington
The New York Times released an exposé on Harvey Weinstein on Thursday, October 5. In the exposé they revealed eight settlements paid over decades of sexual harassing by Mr. Weinstein between 1990 and 2015.
Who is Harvey Weinstein?
Harvey Weinstein is a 65-year-old Hollywood executive, known for shaping American film and being the winner of six best-picture Oscars. He is also the co-founder of Miramax, an Independent entertainment company producing films and television shows, which was sold to Disney in 1993. He left Miramax in 2005 to start up The Weinstein Company (TWC). After having produced a series of British-themed-movies, he earned the title ‘Commander of the British Empire’, an honorary title just short of knighthood.
Mr. Weinstein was supposedly a champion for the liberal cause, being a long-time associate of the Clintons and a major Democratic Party donor. He gathered large donations to both of Clinton’s presidential bids, the Obama-Biden 2012 campaign, has links to Clinton going back to Hillary’s first successful campaign for Senate, and last year he hosted a fund-raiser for Mrs. Clinton in Manhattan. Weinstein served as a connector between Hollywood stars and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, and appeared at the White House several times for formal and informal events. He was even credited by Michelle Obama for making a White House event for student films in 2013, where she called him a wonderful person and a good friend.
What does the allegations claim?
All the details can be read in NYT’s exposé here: (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/05/us/harvey-weinstein-harassment-allegations.html), but to summarize, the common narrative seems to be Weinstein inviting women over at a hotel room for a “business meeting”, but when they’re there, he seems to have other plans entirely. The women said that his behavior varies: appearing nearly or fully naked in front of them; requiring them to be present while he bathed; or repeatedly asking for a massage or initiating one himself. A former news anchor also stated that Mr. Weinstein had trapped her in the hallway of a restaurant that was closed to the public and masturbated in front of her. Just hours after Ambra Battilana, an Italian model and aspiring actress, met Mr. Weinstein “to discuss her career” she later reported to the police that Mr. Weinstein had “grabbed her breasts after asking if they were real and put his hands up her skirts,” according to the police report. Mr. Weinstein later claimed she had “set him up” for it.
Several women have tried to step up to him before, most notably Zelda Perkins in 1998 and Lauren O’Connell in 2015. Ms. Perkins, 25-years-old at the time, told Mr. Weinstein that he had to stop, and that she would go public or initiate legal action unless he changed his behavior. She was supposedly bought off to think otherwise, and neither her nor the Miramax entertainment lawyer Steve Hutensky – who was dispatched to London to negotiate a settlement with her – would give a comment for the NYT article. She would not disclose any information about her work at Miramax or whether she had entered into any agreements. Lauren O’Connell published a memo in 2015 where she filed a complaint about his behavior. Some notable statements she made was, for instance, “There is a toxic environment for women at this company,” “I am a 28 year old woman trying to make a living and a career. Harvey Weinstein is a 64 year old, famous man and this is his company. The balance of power is me: 0, Harvey Weinstein: 10,” and “I am a professional and have tried to be professional. I am not treated that way however. I am sexualized and diminished.” Ms. O’Connor later withdrew her complaint and thanked him for the career opportunity. She wrote an email to the head of human resources six days after the memo, saying “Because this matter has been resolved and no further action is required, I withdraw my complaint.” Mr. Weinstein’s former lawyer, Lisa Bloom, stated of the event that “the parties made peace very quickly.” The investigation was denied by board members after her memo was released, but several associates became alarmed of Mr. Weinstein’s alleged behavior.
Mr. Weinstein allegedly enforced a code of silence, implementing contracts saying the employees of TWC “will not criticize it or its leaders in a way that could harm its ‘business reputation’ or ‘any employee’s personal reputation.’” Most of the women accepted payouts for staying silent about his behavior. While dozens of Mr. Weinstein’s current or former employees knew of inappropriate conduct, only a handful said they ever confronted him.
The writers of the exposé also pointed out that, when conservative icons on Fox News like Roger E. Ailes and Bill O’Reilley got accused of sexual harassment, the women got millions of dollars in payouts, but the women in the Weinstein agreement roughly got between $80,000 and $150,000, according to people familiar with the negotiations.
The NYT exposé mentions explicitly in a paragraph why so few women spoke up earlier:
“Speaking up could have been costly. A job with Mr. Weinstein was a privileged perch at the nexus of money, fame and art, and plenty of his former assistants have risen high in Hollywood. He could be charming and generous: gift baskets, flowers, personal or career help and cash. At the Cannes Film Festival, according to several former colleagues, he sometimes handed out thousands of dollars as impromptu bonuses.”
Several of the women also said that, as there were no witnesses, they feared retaliation by Mr. Weinstein. Other women who had worked with Mr. Weinstein claimed they had never experienced or heard of him committing any such sexual acts.
What was his response to the exposé?
While he denied many of the accusations – especially those of non-consensual sex – he apologized in a public statement on the day of the release. He said that rules about behavior and workplaces were different in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and that “that was how culture was then,” adding that he has since learned that it wasn’t an excuse anymore. He said he was seeking to improve, stating “I’ve been trying to do this for 10 years and this is a wake-up call. I cannot be more remorseful about the people I hurt and I plan to do right by all of them.” He also said in the public statement that “I’m making a movie about our President, perhaps we can make it a joint retirement party.” He said he was planning to get help, but within hours threatened to sue NYT for defamation. His former lawyer Ms. Bloom, resigning on Saturday, said that Mr. Weinstein “denies many of the accusations as patently false,” but also called him “an old dinosaur learning new ways.”
What was the Weinstein Company’s administration’s response?
On Friday, the day after the exposé was released, three board directors resigned as the scandal became international. The remaining board members stated they supported Mr. Weinstein’s decision to take a “leave of absence”, but fired him two days later, as the scandal deepened over the weekend and becoming even more a threat to the future of the company. The statement proclaimed, “The directors of The Weinstein Company – Robert Weinstein, Lance Maerov, Richard Koenigsbeg and Tarak Ben Ammar – have determined, and have informed Harvey Weinstein, that his employment with The Weinstein Company is terminated, effective immediately.” Many clients of TWC stated that they would stop working with the company if Harvey Weinstein was still associated with it. Mr. Maerov stated in an email to Ms. Bloom that “This is not the time for Harvey or TWC to appear defiant or indignant. It is time to repair, heal, accept responsibility and recover.”
What is the Democrats’ response?
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were the first to publicly comment on the matter, both condemning Harvey Weinstein on Tuesday. Mrs. Clinton said she was “shocked and appalled” by the news, adding:
“The behavior described by women coming forward cannot be tolerated. Their courage and the support of others is critical in helping stop this kind of behavior.”
Former President Barack Obama commented further, saying:
“Michelle and I have been disgusted by the recent reports about Harvey Weinstein. Any man who demeans and degrades women in such fashion needs to be condemned and held accountable, regardless of wealth or status. We should celebrate the courage of women who have come forward to tell these painful stories. And we all need to build a culture – including by empowering our girls and teaching our boys decency and respect – so we can make such behavior less prevalent in the future.”
Several other Democratic officials have promised to donate or return money received by Mr. Weinstein in the aftermath of this exposé, most notably Senator of Connecticut Chris Murphy, calling on all Democrats to give money they have received from Mr. Weinstein back. Among others, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer stated he would do this. He tweeted, “What Mr. Weinstein did was awful. Sending his donations to NY orgs doing crucial work for survivors & fams, @SafeHorizon @sffny & @svtcnyc.” Clinton and Obama, however, made no such promise in their statements, though Mr. Weinstein having made large donations to both.
This scandal has reportedly “revived” a debate from the campaign trail of 2016, where Hillary Clinton spoke out against President Trump privately demeaning women in a leaked clip from 2005, called the “Access Hollywood” tape, which of he responded by pushing similar accusations on her husband Bill Clinton.
What is Hollywood’s response?
Mark Gill, who were the former President of Miramax Los Angeles back when Disney owned the company, claimed this was part of a bigger picture in Hollywood, stating that “from the outside, it seemed golden – the Oscars, the success, the remarkable cultural impact. But behind the scenes, it was a mess, and this was the biggest mess of all.”
Executive producer of the HBO series Girls, Jenni Konner, stated that she sees this scandal as a “tipping point,” and remarks the significance of it as being “the moment we look back on and say, ‘That’s when it all started to change,’” adding that “The firing of Mr. Weinstein by his own company is going to scare any man in Hollywood using his power for anything but making movies and television.”
Brook Barnes, reporting on the Hollywood response to the Weinstein scandal on Oct. 8, wrote that movie potentates were at Tower Bar “as usual” on Friday night, and that the restaurant owner Jeff Klein said, “All night long, it seemed like there was only one topic: Harvey Weinstein. It’s all anyone wanted to talk about.” Mr. Barnes described the exposé as “the equivalent of a neutron bomb going off in Hollywood.”
Mr. Barnes stated that out of the 40 entertainment industry players he got in contact with, almost none would speak about the issue on the record. Rose McGowan, one of the actresses who settled with Weinstein, wrote on Twitter, “Ladies of Hollywood, your silence is deafening,” proclaiming – rather understandably – that outrage is the only thing which should be coming from female Hollywood workers after the scandal. The reasoning for the silence varied from need of companies or publicists to approve what they say on record, to reasons Mr. Barnes accused of “paint[ing] a picture of a community hobbled by fear, self-interest and hypocrisy.” He wrote that the women who spoke out “were the exceptions.” Ms. McGowan stated on Instagram earlier today that her Twitter account were suspended for violating Twitter guidelines, “TWITTER HAS SUSPENDED ME. THERE ARE POWERFUL FORCES AT WORK. BE MY VOICE. #ROSEARMY.”
Editor of Variety Claudia Eller pondered over the event: “It’s been extremely quiet – almost radio silence. Part of the reason is that Hollywood always protects its own. Going back through history. And there is still a lot to fear. Is Harvey really done?”
How does the future look for Mr. Weinstein?
His future looks anything but bright, but the question is what happens from now on. Mr. Weinstein got fired by his own company, and said he would go into therapy. He stated, however, that he would sue the New York Times for defamation, a move which I think could trigger a chain reaction for a “mass suing” by women who allegedly got sexually harassed by Mr. Weinstein. They could alternatively take it to court and press charges against him, but that will depend on how far they are willing to go. I’m betting on that if Mr. Weinstein pushes to get back into his Pandora’s box, he will get dragged back out by his former female affiliates who are tired of his inappropriate behavior over the previous decades. Justice has been unserved for too long.