Spacey’s spin fails to blunt scan­dal

Toronto Star - - FRONT PAGE - Vi­nay Menon

On Sun­day night, af­ter he was ac­cused of at­tempt­ing to sex­u­ally as­sault a mi­nor, Kevin Spacey apol­o­gized for an in­ci­dent he claims not to re­mem­ber and then said he was gay.

It was like watch­ing some­one try to put out a grease fire with kerosene.

But let’s start at the be­gin­ning of yet another sor­did Hol­ly­wood tale, one of many in re­cent weeks that have made the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try seem more like a de­praved bac­cha­nal run by preda­tors, mon­sters and per­verts.

Spacey’s mis­cal­cu­lated apol­ogy on Sun­day — in PR terms, there was enough spin to qual­ify as a tor­nado — fol­lowed a shock­ing Buz­zfeed story ear­lier in the day in which ac­tor An­thony Rapp told a trou­bling story about an al­leged 1986 in­ci­dent.

At the time, Rapp was a 14-year-old who was per­form­ing in the Broad­way show Pre­cious Sons.

Spacey, not yet a house­hold name, was 26 and also work­ing in New York theatre.

The two met at an in­dus­try event and, soon af­ter, Spacey in­vited the child ac­tor to a party at his apart­ment. The boy, not know­ing any­one and bored af­ter a few min­utes, wan­dered into a bed­room to watch TV alone.

The party ended. That’s when Rapp says Spacey ap­peared at the bed­room door, sway­ing and ine­bri­ated.

“My mem­ory was that I thought, ‘Oh, ev­ery­body’s gone. Well, yeah, I should prob­a­bly go home,’ ” he told Buz­zfeed. “My impression when he came in the room was that he was drunk.”

Rapp says Spacey “picked me up like a groom picks up the bride over the thresh­old. But I don’t, like, squirm away ini­tially, be­cause I’m like, ‘What’s go­ing on?’ And then he lays down on top of me. He was try­ing to se­duce me. I don’t know if I would have used that lan­guage. But I was aware that he was try­ing to get with me sex­u­ally.”

Af­ter the story was pub­lished, Spacey posted a state­ment on Twit­ter.

“I have a lot of re­spect and ad­mi­ra­tion for An­thony Rapp as an ac­tor. I’m beyond hor­ri­fied to hear his story. I hon­estly do not re­mem­ber the en­counter, it would have been over 30 years ago. But if I did be­have then as he de­scribes, I owe him the sin­cer­est apol­ogy for what would have been deeply in­ap­pro­pri­ate drunken be­hav­ior, and I am sorry for the feel­ings he de­scribes hav­ing car­ried with him all th­ese years.”

The key phrase is “if I did be­have then as he de­scribes,” which is a text­book ex­am­ple of how to sub­tly ques­tion the ve­rac­ity of an al­le­ga­tion with­out at­tack­ing the vic­tim: “I don’t re­call groping you, but your lin­ger­ing sad­ness breaks my heart.”

Spacey then un­wisely segues into long­stand­ing ru­mours about his sex­u­al­ity: “This story has en­cour­aged me to ad­dress other things about my life. I know that there are sto­ries out there about me and that some have been fu­eled by the fact that I have been so pro­tec­tive of my pri­vacy.

“As those clos­est to me know, in my life I have had re­la­tion­ships with both men and women. I have loved and had ro­man­tic en­coun­ters with men through­out my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man.”

Con­flat­ing ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity with child pre­da­tion — a long­stand­ing smear de­ployed by ho­mo­phobes — is al­most as sick as the orig­i­nal al­le­ga­tion.

If Spacey is ever charged with ve­hic­u­lar homi­cide, he may try to defuse the sit­u­a­tion by say­ing, “I choose now to live as a cy­clist.”

The crazy part is this PR strat­egy seemed to be work­ing at first as sev­eral me­dia sto­ries on Sun­day night fix­ated on Spacey com­ing out in­stead of the fact he was ac­cused of try­ing to mo­lest a child.

But the tone of cov­er­age shifted on Mon­day, as many — in­clud­ing GLAAD — ex­co­ri­ated the ac­tor. Also on Mon­day, Net­flix an­nounced it was can­celling House of Cards, Spacey’s po­lit­i­cal drama, af­ter its up­com­ing sixth sea­son, though it did so with­out com­ment­ing on the al­le­ga­tions.

So more than 30 years af­ter al­legedly vi­o­lat­ing Rapp, Spacey vi­o­lated the gay com­mu­nity he never wanted to pub­licly join un­til do­ing so seemed like a nec­es­sary di­ver­sion and the only way to pos­si­bly blunt a scan­dal. And there may be more fall­out. If the re­cent pat­tern around other high-pro­file men ac­cused of sex­ual mis­con­duct holds true — in­clud­ing Har­vey We­in­stein, James To­back and Mark Halperin, who on Mon­day was fired by NBC News over al­le­ga­tions he abused fe­male col­leagues — Spacey may be forced to deal with new vic­tims.

This new front in the bat­tle over sex­ual im­pro­pri­ety in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try — men as­sault­ing boys — comes as for­mer child star Corey Feld­man has rekin­dled his vow to blow the whistle on what he calls Hol­ly­wood’s “big se­cret,” a pe­dophilia ring that has al­legedly abused hun­dreds.

You know, at this point, it might be eas­ier to start com­pil­ing a list of ev­ery­one who is not ac­cused of sex­ual im­pro­pri­ety. This dark chap­ter in Hol­ly­wood just keeps get­ting darker and darker.

Kevin Spacey’s an­nounce­ment that he is gay was seen by some as a PR di­ver­sion af­ter he was ac­cused of as­sault­ing a 14-year-old ac­tor.

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