On October 5, New York Times writers Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey published an investigative piece revealing nearly three decades of alleged sexual assault allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. The article brings to light numerous reports from women at his company and around Hollywood–including actress Ashley Judd–that they were sexually assaulted or harassed by Weinstein. It also details the toxic and sexist power dynamics at The Weinstein Company and many instances where Weinstein allegedly offered career advancements to women in exchange for sex.
Before we get too bogged down in the details–and we will–let’s add a little context to this story. In 2015, Lauren O’Connor, an employee at The Weinstein Company, wrote a scathing and revealing memo that highlighted the internal sexist politics of the company and its toxic environment. That was the same year that the company distributed The Hunting Ground, a documentary film about campus sexual assault. Weinstein has also won humanitarian awards, is a generous donor to the Democratic Party, presents himself as a champion of women and even employed Malia Obama as an intern at his company. Are we getting Joss Whedon vibes yet?
Back to the story at hand. According to the NYT report, over the past 20 years, Weinstein has made at least eight settlements with women over sexual assault allegations (he was married during most of that time). The Times also has eight women on record, including Judd, detailing his advances. In Judd’s case, he invited her to what she thought was a business brunch at his hotel, but when she arrived, she was sent up to his room. Weinstein then greeted her in a bathrobe and issued several sexually-charged invitations including asking her for a massage, to pick out his clothes and to watch him shower.
This is a theme among the women’s stories. Often the same hotel, always the same feeling that this meeting is huge for their careers. It’s the common narrative of a young woman looking to get a start in the film industry being taken advantage of by an older successful wealthy executive. It’s the casting couch.
Weinstein maintained in the past settlements that they were ‘not to be construed as admission.’ With all this brought to light, however, things are looking a bit different. While his lawyer has stated ‘he denies many of the accusations as patently false,’ a statement sent to the NYT by Weinstein admits to something.
‘I realized some time ago that I needed to be a better person and my interactions with the people I work with have changed,’ he wrote, ‘I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it… My journey now will be to learn about myself and conquer my demons.’
He goes on in the statement to say that he will be ‘taking a leave of absence’ from the company to deal with ‘the issue.’ He said that he wishes to regain Ashley Judd’s trust and is hoping to get a ‘second chance in the community.’
He has also started a $5 million foundation to give opportunities to female directors which he says has been in the works for a year.
General reaction has been overwhelmingly supportive of the women who were victims of Weinstein’s advances. Many acknowledged the courage it takes to come forward in cases of sexual assault, especially against such high-powered abusers. Some have also come out to confirm what Ashley Judd said in an interview, that the Weinstein advances were an ‘open secret’ around Hollywood, supporting the allegations of the women involved.
Several Democrats who received donations from Weinstein have also announced that they will be donating the funds to charities.
Hollywood producer I know: “Shocked it’s taken so long for a Harvey Weinstein behavior expose. One of the most open secrets in Hollywood.”
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) October 5, 2017
Women are faced with every obstacle when speaking out. In aspects legal and emotional, the system is set up to protect abusers. Believe us.
— Lauren Duca (@laurenduca) October 6, 2017
The woman who chose to speak about their experience of harassment by Harvey Weinstein deserve our awe. It’s not fun or easy. It’s brave.
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) October 5, 2017
Weinstein’s attempt to rally liberals to his side by attacking the NRA is gross and absurd and I hope people don’t fall for it.
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) October 5, 2017
— Lauren Duca (@laurenduca) October 6, 2017
— jodikantor (@jodikantor) October 6, 2017