Harvey Weinstein’s media enablers


Harvey Weinstein’s Media Enablers

October 6, 2017

Now that The New York Times has put together a stomach-turning chronicle of alleged sexual harassment by the movie mogul Harvey Weinstein — complete with brave, on-the-record statements from, among others, the actress Ashley Judd — we’re hearing a lot about how the story of his misconduct was “the worst-kept secret” in Hollywood and New York.

But until now, no journalistic outfit had been able, or perhaps willing, to nail the details and hit publish.

For decades, stars of Oscar-winning movies produced by Mr. Weinstein appeared on the covers of glossy magazines, chitchatted with late-night hosts and provided fodder for gossip columns and broadsheet features while the uncouth executive partly responsible for their success maintained his special status in Beverly Hills and TriBeCa.

Somehow the whispers concerning his alleged hotel-room and workplace abuses never threatened his next big deal, industry award or accolades, which included an honorary Commander of the British Empire appointment.

The real story didn’t surface until now because too many people in the intertwined news and entertainment industries had too much to gain from Mr. Weinstein for too long. Across a run of more than 30 years, he had the power to mint stars, to launch careers, to feed the ever-famished content beast. And he did so with quality films that won statuettes and made a whole lot of money for a whole lot of people.

“The unfortunate reality of Hollywood is that if someone has money, then they can generally find some kind of audience of people who are interested in working with them,” said Kim Masters, the editor at large at The Hollywood Reporter. This was particularly true of Mr. Weinstein, who, she said, was known for having “the golden touch” that produced “Pulp Fiction” and “Good Will Hunting,” “The King’s Speech” and “Shakespeare in Love.”

Ms. Masters had been chasing the Weinstein story for years. She said she had gotten near “the end zone” once, only to bump up against the ultimate silencer: fear.

“At the last minute, the source withdrew,” she told me.

She said she wanted to believe that times were changing, given the number of women who have put their names to the words that derailed the careers of Bill Cosby, who faced criminal charges that resulted in a mistrial this year, and Bill O’Reilly. But she also wondered aloud whether trouble had finally found Mr. Weinstein because he was no longer the rainmaker and hitmaker he had once been.

“This industry is passionate about causes,” Ms. Masters said, “but when it comes down to doing business, they’re definitely capable of holding their noses.”

With the knowledge that the Times article was heading toward publication, and with word of a similar piece in the works at The New Yorker, Mr. Weinstein assembled an all-star team of crisis-management experts and lawyers that included Lisa Bloom. Ms. Bloom, who said earlier this week that she was working only as an “adviser” to Mr. Weinstein, said she resigned from her role Saturday. She is known for her work representing alleged (and often confirmed) victims of sexual harassment, including those who took on Mr. O’Reilly.

Ms. Bloom shared one reason she may have been sympathetic to Mr. Weinstein on Twitter in April, when she wrote, “My book SUSPICION NATION is being made into a mini-series, produced by Harvey Weinstein and Jay Z!”

Mr. Weinstein has admitted to some inappropriate behavior, and Ms. Bloom has attributed his missteps to his status as a “dinosaur” who is now “learning new ways.”

Certainly, shamefully, there is a long tradition of disgusting harassment of women who try to make it in the movie business. (Jack L. Warner, a founder of Warner Bros. studios, was no saint.)

The image that Mr. Weinstein had concocted for himself — that of a classic Hollywood type, the hot-tempered but charming mogul — took a serious hit in 2015 when an aspiring actress, Ambra Battilana, accused him of groping her at his TriBeCa offices. The New York Police Department’s Special Victims Division investigated the matter, resulting in a lot of bad press and some hard questions from his board. As the Times investigation revealed, however, no charges materialized after Mr. Weinstein paid off his latest accuser in a confidential settlement.

Hollywood isn’t the only industry still abiding behavior that never had a rightful place in civilized society. Not at all. But it stands out because the industry often holds itself up as a force for moral good, its awards ceremonies filled with beribboned attendees.

As my colleagues who wrote the investigative article about Mr. Weinstein, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, noted, he was allegedly harassing women in five-star hotel rooms across the globe even as his company was distributing films like “The Hunting Ground,” a 2015 documentary about sexual assault on college campuses. He also helped endow a “Gloria Steinem” faculty chair at Rutgers; joined a national women’s march in Park City, Utah, in January; and was a big fund-raiser for and supporter of Hillary Clinton.

The same day that The Times broke the story about Mr. Weinstein, Bloomberg News reported that State Street, the bank behind the famous “fearless girl” statue staring down the Wall Street bull, paid $5 million to some 300 female executives after a federal audit determined it had paid them less than their white male counterparts. State Street disagreed with the audit. But as in the case of Mr. Weinstein, the face it presented to the world was woefully contradicted by the charges about its out-of-view behavior.

The allegations against Mr. Weinstein have come to light several years after similar stories concerning Mr. Cosby. The charges against the once-beloved comedian and sitcom star had been floating around for years. But they generally stayed hidden — and did not figure in the biography of Mr. Cosby by the former Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker, published shortly before his public image unraveled — because of what my predecessor, David Carr, described as Mr. Cosby’s “stalwart enablers” and “ferocious lawyers.”

Mr. Weinstein had his own enablers. He built his empire on a pile of positive press clippings that, before the internet era, could have reached the moon. Mr. Carr wrote in a 2001 New York magazine profile of Mr. Weinstein, of whom he was an astute observer: “As the keeper of star-making machinery, Weinstein has re-engineered the media process so that he lives beyond its downsides.”

Every now and then, glimpses of his nasty side spilled out, like when he placed the reporter Andrew Goldman in a headlock and dragged him out of a party in 2000. Someone who was involved in that altercation, Rebecca Traister, wrote in New York’s The Cut on Thursday that it didn’t get the media attention it deserved because “there were so many journalists on his payroll, working as consultants on movie projects, or as screenwriters, or for his magazine.”

Let’s hope that those in the know did not include members of the Los Angeles Press Club, which this year gave Mr. Weinstein its “Truthteller Award,” calling him an example of “integrity and social responsibility,” along with Jay-Z. (The mogul received the honor because of his producing “Time: The Kalief Browder Story,” a Spike TV documentary series about a 16-year-old who spent three years in Rikers Island awaiting a trial that never took place.)

The Press Club might want to rethink the award given that Mr. Weinstein has hired the emerging leader of anti-press jurisprudence, Charles Harder, who brought the case that put Gawker out of business last year.

And what about the eerie Hollywood silence? As The Daily Beast noted, Lena Dunham was one of the few who spoke out against Mr. Weinstein. It sure was a departure from the delight that greeted the charges against the conservative Mr. O’Reilly. Behind the scenes in Los Angeles, as Janice Min, a former editor of The Hollywood Reporter, told me, “I can guarantee the second that story hit yesterday, several men called their attorneys.”

There will be questions for those who knew what was going on but did nothing, for the agents who dispatched would-be stars to his hotel suites when they may have understood what the cost would be and for the editors and reporters who conveniently didn’t bother to look into the tales making the rounds.

I asked Ms. Min how many other Harveys were out there.

“No name comes up more than Harvey Weinstein in this sort of behavior,” she told me. But, she added, “I guarantee there are many more rocks to overturn.”

The sooner, the better. It’s time for the era of open secrets to come to an end.

October 13, 2017. Tags: , , , , , . Media bias, Sexism, Violent crime.

One Comment

  1. drketedc replied:

    Ashley Judd is not brave. She’s an opportunist. She berated a TSA agent for calling her ‘sweetheart’ but kept the Weinstein issue quiet until she could jump on the bandwagon with little risk. Not an admirable human being. She’s in there with Streep in the gaggle of overrated actresses who believe their own press.

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