Spacey’s spin fails to blunt scandal
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.