A-LISTERS UNDER FIRE OVER WEINSTEIN SCANDAL: WHY DID THEY STAY SILENT?
Top Hollywood Stars Under Fire Celebs had heard stories of Harvey Weinstein’s bad behavior, and now critics are asking tough questions
They’d heard stories. On Oct. 23, George Clooney admitted he’d been told about Harvey Weinstein’s “affairs” with actresses — by Harvey himself. “I took all that with a grain of salt,” he said, insisting he didn’t know anything worse was going on. Matt Damon admitted he’d heard the mogul had sexually harassed Gwyneth Paltrow in a hotel room in the 1990s, even though he’d claimed utter shock when the scandal first broke. Matt, 47, had heard about it from pal Ben Affleck, 45, who used to date Gwyneth.
But they and countless other powerful men in Hollywood kept silent for years. In the wake of the massive sexual misconduct scandal — more than 50 women have come forward in recent weeks with allegations against Harvey, 65, including sexual assault and rape — critics say the industry’s biggest male stars have a lot to answer for. Harvey has denied any allegations of nonconsensual sex. A scathing Oct. 24 column in the New York Post blasted George, Matt and others as “hypocrites” and “cowards” whose silence made them “complicit.” Reportitgirl.com CEO Kat Alexander, a sexual assault survivor-turned-victims’ advocate, agrees. “Remaining silent for all these years,” she tells Life & Style, “can make these men enablers.”
SO MANY EXCUSES
Matt said he kept quiet because Gwyneth, 45, and Harvey “had come to [an] agreement or understanding.” Gwyneth’s old boyfriend Brad Pitt, 53, has been praised for confronting Harvey after she told him of the incident, but he still didn’t go public until the scandal broke. “Silence is the enemy,” attorney Gloria Allred, who represents at least two of Harvey’s alleged victims, tells Life & Style. “Hollywood’s male actors need to be role models. If they see it, they need to speak out against those who are doing it.”
Instead, George, 56, is pointing the finger at everyone but himself. He made a point of condemning the media for not publishing reports of Harvey’s behavior. “Whoever had that story and didn’t write it should be held responsible,” he charged. But that’s deeply hypocritical: In the past, upset by stories about him and tactics used by photographers to photograph him, George urged a dramatic change in libel laws “[so] you’ll be able to hold people responsible for what they say.” For a public figure to win a defamation suit, a journalist must be found to have said or written something false and to have acted with “actual malice” — a standard George wanted removed. (“Two words — malicious intent,” he said in 1997, misidentifying the legal standard. “Change these two words, and all journalists are held accountable.”) But getting rid of the “actual malice” requirement means some- one who makes an honest mistake could be successfully sued for defamation. “Getting rid of the actual malice standard would significantly weaken the First Amendment and the freedom of the press in this country,” notes Mary-rose Papandrea, a First Amendment expert and professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, noting that publishers would be more afraid to write about things like sexual misconduct. “If there were no actual malice standard, we might still be waiting for the Weinstein story to be published.” (Ironically, George’s position on the media is almost identical to that of President Donald Trump, who George has labeled a “fascist.”)
So what should these stars have done? “Men with considerable power in Hollywood could have demanded an intervention by the Weinstein Company board,” says Noreen Farrell, executive director of Equal Rights Advocates. “They could have told female colleagues that they would stand with them if they lodged a complaint. They could have used their platform to talk about the problem of sexual harassment.”
Looking the Other Way?
Ben, George and Matt all heard stories about Harvey but claim they didn’t know how bad it was. “Minimizing the sexual harassment and predatory behavior of Weinstein was convenient for powerful men in Hollywood,” charges equal rights advocate Noreen Farrell. “Clearly, many chose to ignore the obvious.”
Finally Facing Consequences
More than half a dozen women have accused Harvey, who’s facing criminal probes in New York and London, of sexual assault or rape, and more than 50 have alleged harassment and other inappropriate behavior.