The New York Times on Thursday published a bombshell story about mega movie producer Harvey Weinstein, detailing numerous accusations of sexual harassment against the Hollywood icon, including damning anecdotes from actress Ashley Judd.
The story prompted a bizarre response from Weinstein, who’s headed Miramax and the Weinstein Company. His statement—in addition to quoting rapper Jay-Z—said that Weinstein would be taking a leave of absence to “give the NRA my full attention.” (Weinstein is an opponent of the gun lobbying group.) He also used the statement to apologize for behavior with colleagues that has “caused a lot of pain.”
Despite the admission of regret, Weinstein’s lawyer told The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday that the movie mogul planned to sue the New York Times over the “false and defamatory statements” included in the story with all potential proceeds from the lawsuit benefitting—interestingly enough—to women’s organizations. (The threat of legal action—versus a filed, court-stamped lawsuit—is usually viewed skeptically, but Weinstein’s lawyer in this matter, Charles Harder, represented Hulk Hogan the successful lawsuit that brought down Gawker.)
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Based on interviews with current and former Weinstein employees and industry insiders, the Times‘ story detailed decades of sexual harassment allegations against Weinstein, who’s best known for such movies as Pulp Fiction and Good Will Hunting. Over the years, Weinstein reportedly brokered at least eight settlements to women, including one with Charmed actress Rose McGowan in 1997 after an incident in a hotel room during the Sundance Film Festival.
Weinstein’s alleged harassment seemed to follow a pattern: women would arrive at luxury hotels for what they thought were business-related meetings with Weinstein, only to have the producer appear nearly or fully naked. He’d require the women to watch him bathe or would ask them for a massage or he’d initiate one of his own. His alleged misbehavior was so well known that one woman advised a peer to wear a parka to a meeting in Weinstein for an added layer of protection.
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His alleged actions in private conflict with Weinstein’s public persona as a champion of women. He threw a fundraiser for presidential nominee Hillary Clinton last year, he attended the Women’s March during the Sundance Film Festival in January, and he’s helped endow a faculty chair at Rutgers University that bears Gloria Steinem’s name.
Judd’s decision to come forward with her accusations is especially notable given her own prominence in the film industry and as well as Weinstein’s.
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Judd told the Times about a hotel room encounter with Weinstein two decades ago, where—expecting a business breakfast meeting—she showed up to find Weinstein in a bathrobe. He asked her for a massage or to watch him shower.
Judd told the paper she remembered thinking: “How do I get out of the room as fast as possible without alienating Harvey Weinstein?”
“I said no, a lot of ways, a lot of times, and he always came back at me with some new ask. It was all this bargaining, this coercive bargaining,” she said. She felt “panicky, trapped,” she told the Times. “There’s a lot on the line, the cachet that came with Miramax.”
She recounted the same story to Variety in 2015 but didn’t name the man involved.
“Women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time,” she told the Times, “and it’s simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly.”