Why the open secret over Weinstein?
NEW YORK: As the grim scope of the allegations surrounding Harvey Weinstein continued to expand, the organisation that bestows the Academy Awards moved to distance itself from the film mogul yesterday.
Actor Ben Affleck was also forced to defend his own previous actions, and scrutiny fell on who knew what about Weinstein’s behaviour over the decades it allegedly took place.
A key and potentially volatile component of Tuesday’s New Yorker expose was the claim that “a culture of complicity” existed at both The Weinstein Co and his previous film company, the Walt Disney-owned Miramax. “Numerous people throughout the companies (were) fully aware of his behaviour but either abetting it or looking the other way,” the magazine reported.
Further scrutiny has followed the contention that Weinstein’s conduct was “an open secret” in Hollywood.
Affleck was called out on Tuesday by actress Rose McGowan. In a tweet, McGowan accused Affleck of lying after issuing a statement that he was “saddened and angry” about the Weinstein revelations.
McGowan suggested Affleck knew decades ago about Weinstein’s behaviour.
Actress Hilarie Burton also renewed an earlier allegation that Affleck groped her in 2003. Yesterday Affleck tweeted an apology: “I acted inappropriately toward Ms Burton and I sincerely apologise.”
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced yesterday that its Board of Governors would hold a special meeting on Saturday to discuss the allegations “and any actions warranted by the academy”.
The film academy called Weinstein’s alleged conduct “repugnant”.
“These alleged actions are antithetical to human decency. These allegations come as an utter surprise to the board. Any suggestion that the board had knowledge of this conduct is false,” the four-member board said.
The board, however, includes Weinstein’s brother, Bob, the company’s other co-chairman. And several board members earlier resigned in the wake of the initial allegations of sexual harassment.
That report, published Thursday by the New York Times, also detailed hundreds of thousands of dollars in alleged settlements. It’s not known if Weinstein made the payments personally or if either The Weinstein Co or Miramax did.
“Given all the information that’s coming out now, I would find it highly implausible that the board was not aware,” said Angela Reddock-Wright, an attorney specialising in employment and labour law who has represented businesses in harassment suits.
“There are just too many allegations here. Unless there were settlements paid out by Weinstein from his own personal money, settlements over a certain dollar value would have presumably been approved by the board of directors.”
Attorney Ann Fromholz said that given Weinstein’s position, The Weinstein Co would be liable over sexual harassment claims even if they weren’t aware. – AP