In a blistering report published Thursday, The New York Times detailed nearly 30 years of reports by women accusing Oscar-winning movie producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment.
The Times reporters, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, write that they learned of legal settlements with at least eight women.
Many of his accusers have been young female employees of his production companies, the Weinstein Company and Miramax, the Times reports. However, they also include actress Ashley Judd, who says Weinstein, 65, invited her to his Beverly Hills hotel room for a breakfast meeting some 20 years ago and then suggested he give her a massage or she watch him shower.
Other allegations include:
- In 2014, Weinstein invited Emily Nestor, who had worked just one day as a temporary employee, to a hotel. He told her that if she accepted his sexual advances, he would boost her career
- In 2015, a female assistant said Weinstein badgered her into giving him a massage while he was naked, leaving her “crying and very distraught.”
- Also in 2015, Italian model Ambra Battilana called the police to report that Weinstein had groped her after inviting her to his New York office to discuss her acting prospects. The Manhattan district attorney’s office did not press charges and she reportedly reached a settlement with Weinstein.
- One woman advised a peer to wear a parka to cover her figure when summoned by Weinstein as a “layer of protection” against unwelcome advances.
Weinstein has been married for the duration of the allegations raised; to Eve Chilton from 1987 to 2004 and to fashion designer Georgina Chapman since 2007.
The power producer has also long been an axis of power and culture. In 2016, he hosted a fundraising dinner for Hillary Clinton, and this past year, Malia Obama completed an internship with his company.
Weinstein issued a statement to the NYT Thursday announcing he was taking a leave of absence to address his personal problems, writing: “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it. Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go.”
But once the piece published, Weinstein threatened legal action.
In a statement to USA TODAY, Weinstein’s attorney, Charles J. Harder, who bankrupted Gawker with his $140 million jury decision in favor wrestler Hulk Hogan before settling for $31 million, noted, “The New York Times published today a story that is saturated with false and defamatory statements about Harvey Weinstein. It relies on mostly hearsay accounts and a faulty report, apparently stolen from an employee personnel file, which has been debunked by 9 different eyewitnesses.”
It continued: “We sent the Times the facts and evidence, but they ignored it and rushed to publish. We are preparing the lawsuit now. All proceeds will be donated to women’s organizations.”
Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha told USA TODAY, “We are confident in the accuracy of our reporting. Mr. Weinstein was aware and able to respond to specific allegations in our story before publication. In fact, we published his response in full.”
Miramax, founded by Weinstein and brother Bob, churned out such critical and box-office hits as Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989), Pulp Fiction (1994) and Good Will Hunting (1997) before taking home its first best-picture Oscar for 1999’s Shakespeare in Love.
The Weinstein Company has remained a major Oscar player, distributing recent best-picture winners The King’s Speech (2010) and The Artist (2011). This past year, Weinstein released the critically praised Wind River and the much-derided Tulip Fever.
The Times writes that in 2015, the same year Weinstein assistant Lauren O’Connor wrote a searing memo to top brass relaying sexual harassment and other misconduct by her boss, his company distributed The Hunting Ground, a documentary about campus sexual assault.
Power lawyer Lisa Bloom, who often represents women who are victims of sexual harassment and cyber assault, told the Times she has been advising Weinstein over the last year on gender and power dynamics.
In a statement to USA TODAY, Bloom said that she had “explained to Weinstein that, due to the power difference between a major studio head like him and most others in the industry, whatever his motives, some of his words and behaviors can be perceived as inappropriate, even intimidating.”
She added, “Harvey is not going to demean or attack any of the women making accusations against him, although he does dispute many of the allegations. Instead, he is going to use this as a painful learning experience to grow into a better man. I will continue to work with him personally for as long as it takes.”