Who else knew of Weinstein’s behavior?
Number of sex abuse claims, settlements raises issue of film execs’ knowledge
NEW YORK — As the grim scope of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual abuse has continued to expand, attention is turning to the question of who knew about the film’s mogul’s behavior.
A key and potentially volatile component of Tuesday’s New Yorker expose was the claim that “a culture of complicity” has 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 behavior 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. Focus has turned, in part, to not just the workplace environments Weinstein operated in, but the stars who may have had some knowledge of Weinstein’s alleged behavior but who failed to raise any alarms.
Ben Affleck was called out Tuesday by alleged victim Rose McGowan. In a tweet, the actress accused Affleck of lying after issuing a statement that he was “saddened and angry” about the Weinstein revelations.
Actress Hilarie Burton also renewed an earlier allegation that Affleck groped her during a visit to MTV’s TRL, which she was hosting in 2003. A Twitter user recalled the incident, noting “everyone forgot.” Burton replied, “I didn’t forget.”
Affleck tweeted an apology on Wednesday: “I acted inappropriately toward Ms. Burton and I sincerely apologize.”
Meanwhile, model and actress Cara Delevingne joined the long list of Weinstein accusers.
She said in a lengthy Instagram post that Weinstein brought up sexual subjects during more than one business meeting and tried to get Delevingne to kiss a woman in front of him. She said she did not participate and left the room.
She said she subsequently appeared in a Weinstein Co. film and added that she “felt awful that I did the movie.” She says she was afraid to speak out at the time of the incident because she feared she may have somehow been responsible and didn’t want to hurt his family.
Delevingne said in a second post Wednesday that abuse of women by powerful men happens in every industry. She urged victims to speak out.
The ongoing fallout poses potentially severe legal issues for the companies involved. The Weinstein Co., which fired its cochairman on Sunday, has moved forward with plans to change its name. In a statement Tuesday night, the Weinstein Co. board of directors strongly denied that it knew about Weinstein’s behavior.
“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 in a statement. “We are committed to assisting with our full energies in all criminal or other investigations of these alleged acts, while pursuing justice for the victims and a full and independent investigation of our own.”
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.
Legal experts are skeptical The Weinstein Co. could have been unaware given the volume of allegations.
“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 specializing in employment and labor 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.”
Representatives for both companies didn’t respond.
Meanwhile, NBC News defended itself Wednesday after questions were raised about whether it had fumbled an explosive story about Weinstein’s alleged sexual assaults that network contributor Ronan Farrow broke instead in The New Yorker.
Producer Harvey Weinstein has been accused of sexual harassment, leading to his being ousted from his company.
Actress Cara Delevingne said Harvey Weinstein also propositioned her.