Oscar-winning movie producer Harvey Weinstein said he would take a leave of absence after the NY Times published a bombshell story detailing "decades of sexual harassment allegations" against him.
His statement reads, in part: "I came of age in the 60's and 70's when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then. I have since learned it's not an excuse, in the office - or out of it. To anyone. I cannot be more remorseful about the people I hurt and I plan to do right by all of them. I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it. Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go."
He also quoted Jay-Z's 4:44, "I'm not the man I thought I was and I better be that man for my children."
This is a bit of a turn-around from Weinstein's comments from yesterday, when he was asked about the looming Times story. "The story sounds so good, I want to buy the movie rights," he told The Hollywood Reporter.
On Wednesday, THR broke the news that Weinstein had hired Charles Harder, who represented Hulk Hogan in his victory over Gawker, and Lisa Bloom, the lawyer representing Kathy Griffin and a woman who accused Usher of giving her herpes. Bloom is Gloria Allred's daughter, and specializes in sexual harassment cases; Weinstein is currently adapting her book for television.
Bloom and Harder will join Weinstein's own attorney, David Boies, to form the legal team dealing with the Times story and another from The New Yorker. Bloom told the Times that Weinstein "denies many of the accusations as patently false."
The first anecdote from the Times piece is from a very on-the-record Ashley Judd, who has spoken about Weinstein in the past, but never by name (here's a Variety article from 2015). Here's how the Times opened its story:
Two decades ago, the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein invited Ashley Judd to the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel for what the young actress expected to be a business breakfast meeting. Instead, he had her sent up to his room, where he appeared in a bathrobe and asked if he could give her a massage or she could watch him shower, she recalled in an interview.
“How do I get out of the room as fast as possible without alienating Harvey Weinstein?” Ms. Judd said she remembers thinking.
Mr. Weinstein soon issued invitation after invitation, [Judd] 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," she said. "It was all this bargaining, this coercive bargaining."
In 2014, Mr. Weinstein invited Emily Nestor, who had worked just one day as a temporary employee, to the same hotel and made another offer: If she accepted his sexual advances, he would boost her career, according to accounts she provided to colleagues who sent them to Weinstein Company executives. The following year, once again at the Peninsula, a female assistant said Mr. Weinstein badgered her into giving him a massage while he was naked, leaving her “crying and very distraught,” wrote a colleague, Lauren O’Connor, in a searing memo asserting sexual harassment and other misconduct by their boss.
“There is a toxic environment for women at this company,” Ms. O’Connor said in the letter, addressed to several executives at the company run by Mr. Weinstein.
According to the Times, Weinstein settled a number of incidents, including the allegation from an Italian model who accused him of groping her at his Tribeca office. (The model met with the Manhattan D.A.'s office, but Weinstein was never charged.)
Weinstein, a Queens native, has long been a powerful Hollywood player, producing films with his brother Bob from their indie movie production company, Miramax, like Pulp Fiction, The English Patient, Shakespeare in Love, Good Will Hunting and Trainspotting. The company's success attracted Disney, which bought Miramax in 1993. The Weinstein brothers later formed The Weinstein Company, which produced Django Unchained, Silver Linings Playbook, Inlgorious Basterds and The King's Speech, among many others.
"From the outside, it seemed golden — the Oscars, the success, the remarkable cultural impact," Mark Gill, former president of Miramax Los Angeles, told the Times. "But behind the scenes, it was a mess, and [Weinstein's behavior with women] was the biggest mess of all."
I took meetings at Weinstein. With other female execs. But every single time I’d hear “as long as you aren’t meeting with Harvey, you’ll be fine.” That’s our reality.
— Stephanie Mickus (@smickable) October 5, 2017
The Times also notes that amid all these accusations, Weinstein's public persona seemed very different:
In 2015, the same year Ms. O’Connor wrote her memo, his company distributed “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary about campus sexual assault. A longtime Democratic donor, he hosted a fund-raiser for Hillary Clinton in his Manhattan home last year. He employed Malia Obama, the oldest daughter of former President Barack Obama, as an intern this year, and recently helped endow a faculty chair at Rutgers University in Gloria Steinem’s name. During the Sundance Film Festival in January, when Park City, Utah, held its version of the nationwide women’s marches, Mr. Weinstein joined the parade.
Weinstein is married to Georgina Chapman, one of the co-designers of fashion brand Marchesa, whose dresses are often worn by stars of Weinstein's films. They have two children; he also has three children from a previous marriage.
UPDATE:The NY Post reports that Weinstein will sue the NY Times for $50 million. Harder told the paper, “The New York Times published today a story that is saturated with false and defamatory statements about Harvey Weinstein. It relies on mostly hearsay accounts and a faulty report, apparently stolen from an employee personnel file, which has been debunked by 9 different eyewitnesses. We sent the Times the facts and evidence, but they ignored it and rushed to publish. We are preparing the lawsuit now. All proceeds will be donated to women’s organizations.”