New York, United States | AFP | Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was fired from his film studio The Weinstein Company following reports he sexually harassed women for decades, as Hollywood stood accused Monday of protecting one of its own despite a pattern of misconduct.
The firing came three days after a bombshell New York Times report alleged that Weinstein, the producer behind such hits as “The King’s Speech” and “The Artist,” preyed on young women hoping to break into the film industry.
Weinstein’s accusers — who reportedly include celebrities such as Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd — say the 65-year-old tycoon had promised to help advance their careers in exchange for sexual favors, pressuring them to massage him and watch him naked.
“In light of new information about misconduct by Harvey Weinstein that has emerged in the past few days, the directors of The Weinstein Company… have determined, and have informed Harvey Weinstein, that his employment with The Weinstein Company is terminated, effective immediately,” the company’s board said in a statement late Sunday.
– Who knew? –
Many in the entertainment industry have expressed their support for the alleged victims.
“The women who chose to speak about their experience of harassment by Harvey Weinstein deserve our awe,” actress Lena Dunham said.
Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep, speaking to the Huffington Post, insisted “not everybody knew” about the pattern of misconduct.
“I don’t believe that all the investigative reporters… would have neglected for decades to write about it,” she said, adding Weinstein’s abuse of power was “inexcusable.”
But a growing number of voices have called out what they suspect was a concerted effort in Hollywood to protect the movie mogul.
“We read the reports about his temper and volatility, but we had also heard stories that he was, to put it bluntly, gross: the kind of guy who promised to make someone a star in exchange for sex, and leveraged his power in the industry to make sure no one talked about it,” wrote BuzzFeed journalist Anne Helen Petersen.
The New York Times wrote that of the more than 40 entertainment industry players it contacted for comment after breaking the story last week, almost all refused to speak on the record.
Sharon Waxman, creator of showbiz website “The Wrap,” meanwhile accused the New York Times of initially covering up the scandal.
In an editorial, she said the newspaper sent her to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct by Weinstein in 2004 — a story she said did not run following “intense pressure from Weinstein.”
The Times disputed her account in a statement to AFP.
“The Times newsroom has a long history of exposing corruption and abuse by powerful people and institutions. Our newsroom was the first to publish a meticulously reported investigation of Mr. Weinstein revealing numerous settlements for sexual harassment,” it said.
“Our former colleague Sharon Waxman wrote about a story that was published in The Times in 2004. No one currently at The Times has knowledge of editorial decisions made on that story. But in general the only reason a story or specific information would be held is if it did not meet our standards for publication.”
– Hollywood powerhouse fades –
Five of The Weinstein Company’s nine all-male board members have resigned over the scandal.
It was not immediately clear what would happen to Weinstein’s share in the firm.
In a statement, Weinstein — a staunch Democratic campaign fundraiser — said he respected all women and was hoping for a second chance while acknowledging he had “work to do to earn it.”
Republicans have pounced on the scandal, while many Democratic lawmakers have since vowed to give their contributions from Weinstein to charity.
President Donald Trump — who himself faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct before winning the White House — declared himself “not at all surprised” by the revelations about Weinstein, who he said he had known a “very long time.”
Weinstein’s lawyer Charles Harder said the Times’ report “relies on mostly hearsay accounts and a faulty report, apparently stolen from an employee personnel file, which has been debunked by nine different eyewitnesses.”
The lawyer is preparing a lawsuit against the newspaper, and has vowed to donate any proceeds to women’s organizations.
A father-of-two married to British fashion designer Georgina Chapman, Weinstein is considered a powerhouse in Hollywood and many of his movies have picked up Oscars, including “Good Will Hunting” and “The Artist.”