Culture

Junk Explained: What Is Going On With These Harvey Weinstein Sexual Assault Allegations?

Is this the biggest exposé in Hollywood history?

This morning the entertainment world woke up to a bombshell: The New York Times has published their collection of “decades of sexual harassment allegations” against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein was the co-founder of independent film studio Miramax, is a multi-Oscar-winning producer, and has his fingers in literally hundreds of Hollywood pies.

The NYT has levelled accusations of sexual assault and harassment at Weinstein going back almost three decades, including eight previously undisclosed settlements in cases of assault and/or harassment. Basically, it’s a complete and utter shitstorm and one of the most intensely powerful and influential men in Hollywood is at the very centre of it.

Although at this stage the allegations are just that, allegations, the situation is very serious. Weinstein has taken leave from his work at The Weinstein Company and has hired a team of lawyers to combat the NYT allegations. He appears ready to sue to protect his name, and has already made some truly bizarre statements in his own defence.

It’s a rough trot, for sure; but the allegations are worth exploring. So, let’s dive into this mess, shall we?

WTF Did The New York Times Just Drop?

Yesterday New York Times investigative journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey revealed the mother lode: nearly three decades of allegations, internal memos and settled law suits involving Harvey Weinstein and various women in the entertainment industry.

The allegations begin with actor Ashley Judd recounting how she was ordered to Weinstein’s hotel room, for what she presumed was a business meeting, only to allegedly be accosted by Weinstein in a robe asking her to let him massage her, or to watch him while he showered. Judd told the NYT she remembers thinking, “How do I get out of the room as fast as possible without alienating Harvey Weinstein?”

The allegations continue with temporary worker Emily Nastor, who had worked for The Weinstein Company for just one day, recounting how she was also ordered to Weinstein’s hotel room years later, in 2014, (at the very same hotel, the Peninsula Beverley Hills) and told if she accepted Weinstein’s sexual advances he would boost her career. Similar allegations were levelled by an unnamed assistant at The Weinstein Company, who was reportedly invited to the hotel room and then bullied into letting Weinstein massage her naked body. The New York Times alleged that she was left “crying and very distraught” after the experience.

The latter was recorded by Lauren O’Connor, a colleague at The Weinstein Company who had written a memo to senior executives of the company, addressing the multiple allegations of harassment against Weinstein and stating, “There is a toxic environment for women at this company”.

When Judd spoke to The New York Times about her allegations, and those of the other women involved in NYT‘s report, she told the paper, “Women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time, and it’s simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly.”

Basically, the NYT investigation is absolutely massive. It details allegations of cover-ups over nearly three decades at Weinstein’s two film businesses, Miramax and The Weinstein Company, and includes “interviews with current and former employees and film industry workers, as well as legal records, emails and internal documents” from Miramax and The Weinstein Company. The paper uncovered at least eight legal settlements made by Weinstein related to assault and harassment allegations, including those from an actor, a model, and two assistants. It’s quite possibly the biggest Hollywood exposé in recent memory.

The Floodgates Have Opened

Unsurprisingly the NYT exposé has well and truly opened the floodgates on a litany of allegations against Weinstein. But again, these remain merely allegations. Perhaps most startling of these allegations comes from Rebecca Traister, a journalist at New York Magazine‘s style vertical The Cut, who wrote in today, “I have been having conversations about Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment for more than 17 years.”

She recalled a scenario in 2000 when she and her New York Observer colleague (and then boyfriend) Andrew Goldman asked Weinstein some questions about his Miramax film O that he objected to, so Weinstein allegedly called Traister a “cunt”, then pushed Goldman down the stairs and attempted to bash his head in when he intervened on Traister’s behalf.

“Such was the power of Harvey Weinstein in 2000,” Traister wrote, “that despite the dozens of camera flashes that went off on that sidewalk that night, capturing the sight of an enormously famous film executive trying to pound in the head of a young newspaper reporter, I have never once seen a photo. Back then, Harvey could spin — or suppress — anything; there were so many journalists on his payroll, working as consultants on movie projects, or screenwriters, or for his magazine.”

Traister writes that she could not find witness or photos to support any reporting on the incident, alleging they were silenced by Weinstein, and that she was afraid of “the full force of Harvey Weinstein”, and alleged that “And indeed, no one could” report on the myriad allegations against Weinstein “for a really, really long time.”

“The best reporters out there tried, for years,” Traister wrote, “perhaps most memorably David Carr, for this magazine. But Weinstein didn’t just exert physical power. He also employed legal and professional and economic power.”

Traister’s assertion that “the accounts in the remarkable New York Times piece offer evidence of the ways in which power imbalance is so key to sexual assault, and in the case of Weinstein, to the ability to keep it from coming to light for so very long” truly hits at the very specific swirl of scandal, incredulity and horror that has surrounded the NYT report.

Weinstein’s Bizarre Responses To The Allegations

According to a spokesperson for The New York Times, Weinstein was made well aware of the report and the allegations, and given adequate time to respond (which he declined), before NYT published its cache of investigations into the incidents.

Since the story dropped Weinstein’s camp has fervently denied the allegations, while acknowledging that he will take a leave of absence. Lisa Bloom, one of the lawyers advising Weinstein, told reporters “he denies many of the accusations as patently false”. And Weinstein lawyer Charles Harder, who was instrumental in the Hulk Hogan case that brought down Gawker, alleged the article was defamatory because it relied on “mostly hearsay accounts and a faulty report”.

Harder also said the article “is saturated with false and defamatory statements about Harvey Weinstein” and alleged Weinstein is prepared to sue the Times for $50 million. Possibly the weirdest response was from Bloom, who called Weinstein “an old dinosaur learning new ways. Ummm…

The Statement

But its Weinstein’s first official written response since the article dropped that has everyone talking. In a statement delivered to the NYT, Weinstein mentions the NRA, attributes a false quote to Jay-Z, and blames the heyday of Hollywood in the 1960s and 1970s for his behaviour. It’s all pretty weird.

Some of the highlights include the following:

“I am going to need a place to channel that anger so I’ve decided that I’m going to give the NRA my full attention. I hope Wayne LaPierre will enjoy his retirement party.”

Rough stuff.

“Jay-Z wrote in 4:44, ‘I’m not the man I thought I was and I better be that man for my children.’ The same is true for me.”

Hi, so, Jay-Z never wrote this in 4:44. Man, don’t drag Jay Z into your drama, hey.

In directly addressing the allegations, Weinstein wrote, “I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, when all the rules about behaviour and workplaces were different,” before admitting “I have since learned it’s not an excuse”. He also wrote, “I so respect all women and regret what happened” and “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologise for it.”

Weinstein also announced he will take a leave of absence from The Weinstein Company, and that he is seeking help from therapists to deal with unspecified issues.

What Everyone Is Saying Now

So the shitstorm has hit, and what does everyone think? People are… depressingly unsurprised that another powerful man has been accused of being a sexual predator. Rose McGowan, one of the actors who has alleged that Weinstein assaulted her in 1997, has been tweeting out some straight fire and getting a great deal of support.

And though few other celebrities have spoken out about the incident, it’s worth noting that Lena Dunham, who has worked with Weinstein before, was quick to tweet her support to the alleged victims of Weinstein’s abuse. Meanwhile, Twitter users have been calling on other celebrities to comment on the incidents.

Oof, this is a messy, messy situation. Now the floodgates are open, more nasty junk is sure to follow. So, this is definitely one to watch as it continues to unfold.

Matilda Dixon-Smith is Junkee’s Staff Writer. She tweets from @mdixonsmith.