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Hollywood powerhouse Harvey Weinstein accused of sexual harassment dating back decades

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Harvey Weinstein is among the most powerful, influential, and successful producers in Hollywood, with six best picture Oscars to his name. He is also, according to an explosive New York Times investigation published Thursday, a serial sexual predator, who has sexually harassed female colleagues, assistants, and actresses for nearly 30 years.

The Times describes multiple women, including actress Ashley Judd, whose “accounts of Mr. Weinstein’s conduct share a common narrative: Women reported to a hotel for what they thought were work reasons, only to discover that Mr. Weinstein, who has been married for most of three decades, sometimes seemed to have different interests.”

In interviews, eight women described varying behavior by Mr. Weinstein: appearing nearly or fully naked in front of them, requiring them to be present while he bathed or repeatedly asking for a massage or initiating one himself. The women, typically in their early or mid-20s and hoping to get a toehold in the film industry, said he could switch course quickly — meetings and clipboards one moment, intimate comments the next. One woman advised a peer to wear a parka when summoned for duty as a layer of protection against unwelcome advances.

According to the Times, Weinstein’s alleged conduct was an open secret in the industry, known to “dozens” of “former and current employees, from assistants to top executives.”

In 2014, Mr. Weinstein invited Emily Nestor, who had worked just one day as a temporary employee, to the same hotel and made another offer: If she accepted his sexual advances, he would boost her career, according to accounts she provided to colleagues who sent them to Weinstein Company executives. The following year, once again at the Peninsula, a female assistant said Mr. Weinstein badgered her into giving him a massage while he was naked, leaving her “crying and very distraught,” wrote a colleague, Lauren O’Connor, in a searing memo asserting sexual harassment and other misconduct by their boss.

Weinstein has reportedly “reached at least eight settlements with women.” The Times listed some of the recipients of these payouts: “a young assistant in New York in 1990, an actress in 1997, an assistant in London in 1998, an Italian model in 2015 and Ms. O’Connor shortly after, according to records and those familiar with the agreements.”

Weinstein issued a statement to the Times — a baffling, borderline-incoherent document in response to the allegations against him.

Harvey Weinstein, left, and Georgina Chapman arrive at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. CREDIT: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

After citing the era in which he “came of age” as one in which “all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different,” Weinstein says his actions — though he did not specifically describe what actions — “caused a lot of pain” for his colleagues, “and I sincerely apologize for it.” He went on to describe how his attorney Lisa Bloom (who most recently defended a number of Bill O’Reilly’s accusers in their successful sexual harassment lawsuits against the Fox News giant) was, per his request, “tutor[ing]” him on how to behave. He announces his plans to take a leave of absence from his company.

Then, for reasons unclear, he tries to quote Jay Z. But, as Spin notes, the line Weinstein attributes to Jay Z’s “4:44” — “I’m not the man I thought I was and I better be that man for my children” — does not resemble a single lyric in either the song “4:44” or on the album of the same name. The best guess at what Weinstein was going for: “And if my children knew / I don’t even know what I would do / If they ain’t look at me the same / I would prob’ly die with all the shame.”

Weinstein wraps it all up by, it appears, trying to distract from the issue at hand by teasing “retirement parties” for Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the NRA, and President Donald Trump, who Weinstein says will be the subject of an upcoming film he’s working on. “One year ago, I began organizing a $5 million foundation to give scholarships to women directors at USC,” he writes. “While this might seem coincidental, it has been in the works for a year.”

As the Times pointed out, most settlements paid out by Weinstein were in the range of $80,000 to $150,000, which pales in comparison to payouts “well into the millions of dollars” that women who accused Fox News’ Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly received.

In her statement, Bloom calls Weinstein “an old dinosaur learning new ways.” As she readily admits, she and Weinstein are “work[ing] together on a project bringing my book to the screen.” The Cut reported yesterday that Bloom, who has a history of advocating for the accusers, not the accused, in sexual misconduct cases, wrote a book about the Trayvon Martin case, Suspicion Nation, which Weinstein optioned in March. “Weinstein may not have known then that the Times and New Yorker were preparing stories about him, but Ronan Farrow, who is reporting for The New Yorker, has apparently been digging into the allegations for a year.”

Weinstein’s attorney Charles Harder told The Hollywood Reporter that his client intends to sue the Times over the story, which “is saturated with false and defamatory statements” and “relies on mostly hearsay accounts and a faulty report… We are preparing the lawsuit now. All proceeds will be donated to women’s organizations.” Harder is best known as the lawyer who represented Hulk Hogan in his successful lawsuit against Gawker in 2016.

The allegations against Weinstein, and the fears his accusers describe around going public — not just personal embarrassment but professional retaliation — echo the stories of women who came forward with sexual harassment allegations against other high-profile, and high-powered, men in the entertainment industry: Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, and Bill Cosby.

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