Harvey Weinstein is one of Hollywood’s top producers. His company is behind multiple Best Picture award winners and he himself is an outspoken progressive who has hosted a fundraiser for President Obama in one of his homes. According to a blockbuster story published today by the NY Times, Weinstein has also been involved in sexual harassment of actresses and young female employees for decades:
Across the years and continents, accounts of Mr. Weinstein’s conduct share a common narrative: Women reported to a hotel for what they thought were work reasons, only to discover that Mr. Weinstein, who has been married for most of three decades, sometimes seemed to have different interests. His home base was New York, but his rolling headquarters were luxury hotels: the Peninsula Beverly Hills and the Savoy in London, the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc near the Cannes Film Festival in France and the Stein Eriksen Lodge near the Sundance Film Festival…
In interviews, eight women described varying behavior by Mr. Weinstein: 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. The women, typically in their early or mid-20s and hoping to get a toehold in the film industry, said he could switch course quickly — meetings and clipboards one moment, intimate comments the next. One woman advised a peer to wear a parka when summoned for duty as a layer of protection against unwelcome advances…
“It wasn’t a secret to the inner circle,” said Kathy DeClesis, Bob Weinstein’s assistant in the early 1990s. She supervised a young woman who left the company abruptly after an encounter with Harvey Weinstein and who later received a settlement, according to several former employees.
One of the women accusing Weinstein of this kind of harassment is actress Ashley Judd. In 1997 while working on a film, Judd was summoned to Weinstein’s hotel room for breakfast:
When Mr. Weinstein invited Ms. Judd to breakfast in Beverly Hills, she had been shooting the thriller “Kiss the Girls” all night, but the meeting seemed too important to miss. After arriving at the hotel lobby, she was surprised to learn that they would be talking in his suite; she decided to order cereal, she said, so the food would come quickly and she could leave.
Mr. Weinstein soon issued invitation after invitation, she said. Could he give her a massage? When she refused, he suggested a shoulder rub. She rejected that too, she recalled. He steered her toward a closet, asking her to help pick out his clothing for the day, and then toward the bathroom. Would she watch him take a shower? she remembered him saying.
“I said no, a lot of ways, a lot of times, and he always came back at me with some new ask,” Ms. Judd said. “It was all this bargaining, this coercive bargaining.”
To get out of the room, she said, she quipped that if Mr. Weinstein wanted to touch her, she would first have to win an Oscar in one of his movies.
Weinstein also reached a settlement with actress Rose McGowan in 1997. But the accusations continue up until at least 2015. That’s when a former Miss Italy finalist named Ambra Battilana reported to police that Weinstein had groped her and put his hand up her skirt during a business meeting at his office. The case was investigated by the Special Victims Unit of the NYPD but the DA declined to press charges against Weinstein. Despite that, the NY Times reports Weinstein made a settlement of some kind with Battilana.
What’s stunning here is not that a Hollywood producer is a casting-couch creep. Hollywood has been producing those for as long as it has been profiting off beautiful young starlets. What’s striking is that Weinstein could travel in the most elevated social circles and be treated as a progressive political champion while carrying on like this for decades. Here’s Weinstein in February writing about the need to defend progressive causes including, ironically, women’s rights:
The way transgender children were treated this week is an act of pure malice that’s beyond compare. We need to Defend them and the LGBT community. We need to Defend Planned Parenthood and women’s rights. We must Defend against racial crimes and anti-Semitism. We must Defend ourselves against those that would divide us. But no matter how we win, the Defenders need to do it in the Red States and prove our point by being there.
In 2012, Weinstein hosted a star-studded fundraiser for President Obama at which he once again spoke of the fight for women’s rights. From the pool report published by the Hollywood Reporter:
As we entered the room, Harvey Weinstein was speaking, introducing the president, who was standing beside him.
“Leading with your heart is the utmost for this president. Fighting for Planned Parenthood and protecting women’s rights, this president has fought the good fight,” Mr. Weinstein said. “Recently in Aurora, we saw him put his arms around the people that needed him the most.” He added, “You can make the case that a he’s the Paul Newman of American presidents.”
Weinstein’s penchant for outspoken progressive activism has led to plenty of praise for his excellent qualities as a person. Just a few months ago Weinstein, along with Jay Z, received the inaugural “truthteller” award from LA Press Club:
“In our troubled times, we could not find two finer examples of integrity and social responsibility than Jay Z and Harvey Weinstein,” said Los Angeles Press Club president and NBC4 anchor Robert Kovacik in a statement.
Integrity. Social responsibility. Sexual harassment. One of these things is not like the others. And yet, it doesn’t seem to have crimped Weinstein’s style at all. At least not until now.
Weinstein has released a very brief statement saying he’s “caused a lot of pain” and adding that he’ll be taking a leave of absence to work on his issues. That’s a great option for a wealthy Hollywood mogul who appears to have paid off potential accusers with settlements over the years. He’ll just slink off to some resort while his team of PR gurus prepares for his return. Naturally, Weinstein’s crisis PR advice is being handled by people best known for their work in Democratic politics. From Buzzfeed:
Anita Dunn, a top Obama campaign staffer and former White House communications director, helped offer damage control advice for the Hollywood mogul…
Sources said that Lanny Davis, former special counsel to Bill Clinton, has been central to the PR effort for Weinstein, who is a major Democratic donor. Dunn, for her part, is the managing director of SKDKnickerbocker, a Washington public affairs firm with deep ties to Democratic politics. She was communications director for Obama’s 2008 campaign and served briefly in his administration.
The bottom line here is that Weinstein won’t be crossed off Hollywood’s progressive power list over decades of (alleged) sexual harassment. The people who are still rooting for Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, Joss Whedon and of course, Bill Clinton are not about to have a problem with this. Frankly, the bar is already so low for progressives in Hollywood that Weinstein will be back in action before you know it. If credible accounts of rape aren’t enough to take the sheen off someone’s character in tinsel town, a naked mogul pressing young women (who depend on him for employment) for “massages” sure isn’t going to do it. We’ve known for a long time now that Hollywood has two standards, the one it uses to attack conservative hypocrites and the one it uses to ignore the progressive ones.