Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein is reportedly taking a leave of absence following a report from The New York Times alleging decades of sexual harassment claims against him.
Weinstein, 65, is the cofounder of Miramax and The Weinstein Company, where he currently serves as co-chairman with his brother, Bob. Miramax is responsible for producing films including “Pulp Fiction,” “Clerks,” “Sex, Lies and Videotape” and “Shakespeare in Love” — for which Weinstein garnered an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. He also won the Academy Award for best picture for producing “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” Additionally, Weinstein produced the “Scream” franchise, four of the “Scary Movie” films and the television series “Project Runway.”
Weinstein said in a statement to The Times that his alleged actions were a result of coming from a different era.
“I came of age in the 60s and 70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different,” Weinstein said. “That was the culture then.”
The “culture” that Weinstein, now 65, refers to reportedly includes mounting allegations of sexual harassment spanning “over nearly three decades, documented through interviews with current and former employees and film industry workers, as well as legal records, emails and internal documents from the businesses he has run, Miramax and the Weinstein Company,” The Times reported.
Despite Weinstein’s initial “apology” — a disjointed statement in which he talks about the National Rifle Association (NRA) and incorrectly quotes a lyric from rapper Jay-Z — attorneys for Weinstein vehemently denied the claims against him to various media outlets. And now, Weinstein plans to sue The Times for its report.
The Times reports that at least eight legal settlements have been reached in response to allegations by former employees of The Weinstein Company and Miramax. Its investigation found that among those who reached settlements are “a young assistant in New York in 1990, an actress in 1997, an assistant in London in 1998, an Italian model in 2015 and [Lauren] O’Connor shortly after, according to records and those familiar with the agreements.”
Lauren O’Connor, a former employee of Weinstein, wrote a memo in 2015 that describes some women’s accounts of alleged encounters with Weinstein.
“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,” O’Connor wrote in her memo, obtained by The Times.
O’Connor and Weinstein eventually reached a settlement and she withdrew her memo. Through an attorney, she declined to comment to The Times.
Ashley Judd, known for her roles in various films including the recent “Divergent” series, also accused Weinstein of sexual harassment. During one encounter, she claims she met with Weinstein under the assumption they were having a meeting but was instead confronted by Weinstein in a bathrobe asking for a massage or if she’d like to watch him shower. She told The Times she was thinking, “How do I get out of the room as fast as possible without alienating Harvey Weinstein?”
Lisa Bloom, an attorney and adviser to Weinstein, described him to The Times as “an old dinosaur learning new ways” — seeming to divert blame for any alleged misbehavior away from Weinstein.
In his statement to The Times Weinstein claimed to “so respect women.” And his outside persona would perhaps suggest that. In January he joined one of the nationwide women’s marches. He served as a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton during her bid for the presidency last year. Malia Obama, former President Barack Obama’s oldest daughter, even interned for him. And in his bizarre statement to The Times he cites a foundation in the works that will provide scholarships to women.
In an interview with Page Six Weinstein insists The Times treated him unfairly and did not paint an accurate picture of him:
“They never wrote about the documentary I did with Jay-Z about Rikers Island, they never write that I raised $50 million for amfAR, nor my work with Robin Hood — instead they focus on trying to bring me down. This is a vendetta, and the next time I see Dean Baquet [the executive editor of the Times] it will be across a courtroom.”
Perhaps Weinstein’s belief that doing enough charity work and making enough donations will somehow make up for the alleged sexual harassment incidents is also a product of growing up in a different era.
Meanwhile, despite Weinstein’s self-proclaimed good deeds, employees of Weinstein are bound to a strict code of silence, and those who reached settlements with Weinstein agreed to a “confidentiality clause,” according to The Times, suggesting that Weinstein’s “respect” for women only goes on his terms.
The accusations against Weinstein and the dynamic of a man in a position of power exerting authority over women echoes the sexist culture alleged to exist at Fox News, starting all the way at the top with the late Roger Ailes, former CEO of the media giant. Also among Fox’s power players accused of sexual assault is former host Bill O’Reilly. A previous Times report found that three settlements involving O’Reilly had been previously undisclosed, dating back to 2002. Fox settled two of them, and in 2011, O’Reilly privately settled a third.
“Bill, you’re my boss!” a former Fox News producer said in a lawsuit she told Bill O’Reilly when he propositioned her for sex.
Settlements at Fox went up in the millions. Of note, The Times states, “most of the women involved in the Weinstein agreements collected between roughly $80,000 and $150,000, according to people familiar with the negotiations.”