The New York Times lit a match and set Harvey Weinstein’s career ablaze on October 5th, 2017 with a scathing report that the Hollywood power player has been sexually harassing actresses and female employees for decades.
The report is a play-by-play of assault and harassment that makes Bill O’Reilly look downright saintly. There is the story of Ashley Judd meeting Mr. Weinstein at his hotel for what she thought was a business meeting. Instead, she was sent to his room, greeted by Weinstein in a bathrobe, and asked “if he could give her a massage of she could watch him shower.” There’s the particularly troubling story of Emily Nestor, who only made it one day as a temp for Mr. Weinstein. She, too, was invited to his hotel, but made another offer, according to the New York Times. Weinstein allegedly told her that if she was sexual with him, he would give her career a much needed boost. Nestor reported him to her colleagues. The next year, another assistant’s account of harassment upset her colleague to the point that she wrote a memo that read, “There is a toxic environment for women at this company.” Toxic? That’s perhaps the understatement of the year! Her memo also poignantly points out just how easy it was for one of Hollywood’s most powerful men to take advantage of women as he did. “I am a 28-year-old woman trying to make a living and a career. Harvey Weinstein is a 64-year-old, world famous man and this is his company. The balance of power is me: 0, Harvey Weinstein: 10.”
Adding to the New York Times expose was the second punch by the New Yorker. This article, written by Ronan Farrow (son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen), included even more serious claims — allegations of rape. Farrow said, “Three women told me that Weinstein raped them, allegations that include Weinstein forcibly performing or receiving oral sex and forcing vaginal sex. Four women said that they experienced unwanted touching that could be classified as an assault.” In fact, in 2015 the NYPD engaged in a sting operation in which an audio recording captured Weinstein admitting to groping a model named Ambra Battilana Gutierrez. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office declined to press charges. This decision apparently surprised the officers involved in the operation but recently the prosecutor’s office said this about their decision: “While the recording is horrifying to listen to, what emerged from the audio was insufficient to prove a crime under New York law, which requires prosecutors to establish criminal intent.”
We at PROOF do not agree with this legal determination but perhaps there are other factors we are not privy to that played into this decision. We do believe, however, that this is Harvey’s last lucky break. NYPD and the DA’s office will no doubt be looking more seriously and closely into the claims of rape. Currently, there are allegations that at least one of them occurred in New York. Note that for at least the last ten years, New York does not have a statute of limitations on rape so many cases will not be time barred. And, as of this writing, there are 4 sexual assault investigations underway in London. There is no statute of limitations on sex crimes in the United Kingdom.
Over the years, Weinstein has settled at least eight claims that were brought against him for inappropriate behavior toward women. We do not yet know if the settlements stemmed from incidents of alleged assault or harassment because the settlements are confidential. The parties to the settlements could not divulge information or talk about them BUT that does not mean the information and the witnesses (parties, victims) can’t be subpoenaed in future legal actions, including criminal investigations. While some of the clauses in the agreement will likely receive protection if/when the agreements lose their “confidential status” much of their contents will be discoverable whether it is a civil or criminal matter.
The news is coming out fast and furious about Weinstein. As of this writing, his wife has left him, he has been fired by his own company, he has been kicked out of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, USC has returned his $5 million donation, and near daily women are reporting their experiences with him. Just about everything about this matter is disgusting and what makes it even worse is the way that Weinstein presented himself as a supporter of women. His company distributed “The Hunting Ground” a movie about sexual assault on college campuses. He donated and held fundraisers for Hillary Clinton, he employed Obama’s daughter Malia as an intern. He joined a women’s march in Utah. Talk about a sheep in wolf’s clothing.
It seems as if it has been weeks since his initial statement to the press (as of this posting it has been only 10 days), when, in explaining his conduct, he said, “I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. Really? Actually, they weren’t so different. Women didn’t enjoy being harassed or assaulted back then either. He continued though by saying that he learned from the past and has changed. He acknowledged that his behavior “has caused a lot of pain, and [he] sincerely apologizes for it.” Standard issues, boilerplate mea culpa from Weinstein. In light of the breadth and depth of his misconduct, we at PROOF can’t recall a more hollow and meaningless public apology.
What about that defamation suit Weinstein threatened to file against the New York Times? He has already fired the lawyer he hired, Charles Harder. (Harder famously won Hulk Hogan a $140 million settlement against Gawker, click here to read more about that.) For anyone who still cares about Weinstein’s described as his motives for the suit, here’s his explanation: I am suing because of the Times’ inability to be honest with me, and their reckless reporting. They told me lies. They made assumptions.” Okay, Harvey.
The Hollywood casting couch has been around since the early 1900s. Most in Hollywood knew of Weinstein’s couch or what we at PROOF like to call an entire furniture store. There were jokes on sitcoms (30 Rock), comments on award shows (Seth MacFarlane at the 2013 Academy awards), and general conversations among scores of women in Hollywood about his behavior. Perhaps not everyone knew (Meryl Streep?!) about Hollywood’s biggest yet dirtiest little secret but it’s well past the time to expose it and to expose it on the level in which it is being exposed. Maybe this will be the tipping point in the way Hollywood has been run for decades, maybe it will serve as a deterrent we are hopeful that it will be. In the meantime, we will keep a careful eye on all the legal issues that will be the very predictable fallout surrounding this former Tinseltown titan.