On Thursday, The New York Times published the stories of five women accusing comedian Louis C.K. of sexual misconduct. Two of the women–comedians Dana Min Goodman and Julia Wolov–reported that in 2002, C.K. asked them if he could take out his penis, then proceeded to undress and masturbate in front of them. Abby Schachner told The Times that she could hear him masturbating on the other end of the phone while on a call in 2003.
When the news broke, C.K. offered no initial comment and his publicist told press he was ‘not going to answer any questions.’ Reaction was quick though. As has been customary post-Weinstein, people came out to condemn the comedian and the industry slapped him with some immediate career consequences.
The Orchard film distribution company cancelled the release of C.K.’s self-funded film, I Love You, Daddy–ironically about the inappropriate relationship between a minor and an older film executive. The premiere, which was slated for Thursday night, was abruptly cancelled a few hours before the story broke. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert cancelled C.K.’s scheduled appearance on the show and HBO also cut ties with the comedian and removed his content from their website.
This afternoon, C.K. finally addressed the accusations in a written statement to media outlets. In it, he does not make excuses for his behaviour like we’ve seen from Harvey Weinstein–‘that was the culture then’–and Kevin Spacey–I don’t remember/I was drunk/’I choose now to live as a gay man.’ Instead, he says, ‘These stories are true’ and includes a lengthy apology that hits pretty much all the points we could ask for.
C.K. acknowledged the courage it took the women to come forward, how he justified his actions in his mind at the time and his new understanding of the power dynamic and privilege that allowed him to get away with undressing in front of them.
He said, ‘what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly.’
He expressed his regret at not using that power to help these women in their careers rather than hurt them. He described how he must now reconcile with his actions and the pain he’s caused, while acknowledging his own feelings are nothing compared to those of the five women. He concluded by saying ‘I have spent my long and lucky career talking and saying anything I want. I will now step back and take a long time to listen.’
Here is the statement:
I want to address the stories told to the New York Times by five women named Abby, Rebecca, Dana, Julia who felt able to name themselves and one who did not.
These stories are true. At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true. But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly.
I have been remorseful of my actions. And I’ve tried to learn from them. And run from them. Now I’m aware of the extent of the impact of my actions. I learned yesterday the extent to which I left these women who admired me feeling badly about themselves and cautious around other men who would never have put them in that position.
I also took advantage of the fact that I was widely admired in my and their community, which disabled them from sharing their story and brought hardship to them when they tried because people who look up to me didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t think that I was doing any of that because my position allowed me not to think about it.
There is nothing about this that I forgive myself for. And I have to reconcile it with who I am. Which is nothing compared to the task I left them with.
I wish I had reacted to their admiration of me by being a good example to them as a man and given them some guidance as a comedian, including because I admired their work.
The hardest regret to live with is what you’ve done to hurt someone else. And I can hardly wrap my head around the scope of hurt I brought on them. I’d be remiss to exclude the hurt that I’ve brought on people who I work with and have worked with who’s professional and personal lives have been impacted by all of this, including projects currently in production: the cast and crew of Better Things, Baskets, The Cops, One Mississippi, and I Love You, Daddy. I deeply regret that this has brought negative attention to my manager Dave Becky who only tried to mediate a situation that I caused. I’ve brought anguish and hardship to the people at FX who have given me so much The Orchard who took a chance on my movie and every other entity that has bet on me through the years.
I’ve brought pain to my family, my friends, my children and their mother.
I have spent my long and lucky career talking and saying anything I want. I will now step back and take a long time to listen.
Thank you for reading.
His words do not change this actions, but this is the most sincere and thoughtful response we’ve seen to sexual misconduct allegations in recent memory.