On October 5, The New York Times published a report which included first person accounts of many women, revealing incidents of sexual harassment they faced at the hands of ‘larger-than-life’ Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein. These accounts ranged from his employees to actress Ashley Judd and most recently Angelina Jolie.
Judd recounted an incident from two decades ago, saying she was asked to meet Weinstein in his hotel room. According to her account, the Oscar-winner greeted her wearing a bathrobe and asked if he could give her a massage or if she would watch him shower.
“Women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time, and it’s simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly,” Judd told the Times. Her publicist Annett Wolf said in response to a request for comment, “The New York Times article speaks for itself.”
Thursday’s NYT report included similar accounts of Weinstein coercing young women into giving him massages, while naked, or watching him shower, with promises of career advancement in return. All these incidents were said to have taken place in hotel rooms. NYT reported that at least eight women had received settlements from Weinstein over the years, including actress Rose McGowan, who allegedly had an incident with him in 1997, when she was 23.
In response, Weinstein’s attorney Charles J Harder said in a statement that the story is “saturated with false and defamatory statements about Harvey Weinstein.” Harder alleged that they had sent NYT “facts and evidence”, but the newspaper “ignored it and rushed to publish”.
Following the publication of the report, Weinstein gave an interview to The New York Post where he called the Times’ reporting “reckless” and accused the newspaper of having a “vendetta” against him. However, the 65-year-old, known for producing films like ‘Pulp Fiction’ and ‘Shakespeare in Love’, did not specify as to which allegations levied on him were “false”.
By Sunday, Weinstein was fired by the Weinstein Company, the studio he co-founded. He responded to the report with a lengthy statement, in which he said, “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 added, “I want a second chance in the community but I know I’ve got work to do to earn it.”
On social media, Weinstein quickly became a trending topic, where a large section of Hollywood reacted with disgust and outrage. Some of these were Meryl Streep, Lena Dunham, Jennifer Lawrence and George Clooney. Many Congressional Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, returned thousands of dollars that they had received in donations from Weinstein.
On Tuesday, The New Yorker published a report sharing accounts of sexual assault and harassment by multiple women. The article included incidents going back to the 1990s, with details about forced oral and vaginal sex. This was followed by another report in NYT where Hollywood actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie shared their testimonies of abuse by Weinstein.
Following this, many political figures including Hillary Clinton, Barack and Michelle Obama released statements against the Hollywood producer. Expressing shock over the revelations, Clinton praised the women who had shared their accounts. “Their courage and the support of others is critical in helping to stop this kind of behavior,” she tweeted.
In a joint statement, former US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle expressed disgust with Weinstein. “Any man who demeans and degrades women in such fashion needs to be condemned and held accountable, regardless of wealth or status. We should celebrate the courage of women who have come forward to tell these painful stories,” the statement said.
Following Tuesday’s reports, more people from the Hollywood fraternity released statements. “I am saddened and angry that a man who I worked with used his position of power to intimidate, sexually harass and manipulate many women over decades,” Ben Affleck wrote on Tuesday. “The additional allegations of assault that I read this morning made me sick. This is completely unacceptable, and I find myself asking what I can do to make sure this doesn’t happen to others.”
“This morning, I just feel absolutely sick to my stomach,” actor Matt Damon told a trade website on Tuesday. “This kind of stuff can’t happen,” he added.