Excerpt from Patriot: My Journey Through America’s Undeclared Civil War by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D.
On October 5, 2017, The New York Times published an in-depth investigation of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, with a focus on his alleged sexual harassment of young women over a period of many years, and “at least” eight settlements reached, presumably at the cost of the victims’ silence.
The article features an interview with superstar Ashley Judd, who says he tricked her into a breakfast meeting that quickly turned into a protracted verbal tussle. How about a massage? Would she watch him take a shower?
“I said no, a lot of ways, a lot of times, and he always came back at me with some new ask,” said Judd of the encounter.
Weinstein promptly fired back, positioning himself as essentially a good guy who has been stabbed in the back by a troubled friend. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he deftly:
Calls her crazy: Brings up Judd’s history of prior sexual abuse and “brutal” life story—i.e., she’s confusing a friend with an enemy.
Calls her a liar: Makes the claim that her earlier account, to Variety, is different from the one she told the Times—i.e., that the problem is the discrepancy, not the fact that Judd had already mentioned her encounter with him before the Times story appeared.
Ignores the power difference between them: Notes that she went on to appear in two of his movies and that “I even set her up on a date with my brother Bob,”—ignoring the obvious fact that people trying to survive and succeed will put up with a lot of stuff from people who are otherwise odious to them.
In her analysis of the story for The Daily Beast, Amy Zimmerman picks up on the choking level of outrage among women that the Times’ story invokes.
“Even for women completely outside of Weinstein’s orbit, the Times story is sure to strike a chord, evoking the sort of mental calculus we revert to when engaging with a potential predator who is also a professional superior.”
It appears to have been a pattern that Weinstein liked to noodge, and noodge, and noodge until his victims finally gave in to him. As the Times reports:
“A female assistant says 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.”
Other women interviewed by the newspaper said he had a habit of “repeatedly asking for a massage or initiating one himself” in addition to “appearing nearly or fully naked in front of them, requiring them to be present while he bathed.”
The harassment was interwoven with work, such that Weinstein “could switch course quickly—meetings and clipboards one moment, intimate comments the next.”
They tried to protect each other; “one woman advised a peer to wear a parka when summoned for duty as a layer of protection against unwelcome advances.”
It also appears that Weinstein’s behavior may not have been confined to employees, actual or potential. In an interview with The Huffington Post, television reporter Lauren Sivan claimed Weinstein trapped her in a restaurant hallway and masturbated in front of her until he ejaculated.
After the Times article appeared, Weinstein issued an apology which reads, in part:
“I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then. I have since learned it’s not an excuse, in the office—or out of it. To anyone.”
Reading between the lines, I take Weinstein’s statement to mean that 50 years ago, it was normal to harass the women who worked for you, but now he “gets” that women are actual people who feel actual pain.
It’s not clear how real his remorseful words are though. Weinstein’s done everything he can to shut everybody up about his predatory behavior until now; he tried to discredit Ashley Judd; he is threatening to sue The New York Times; and as for those settlements, “my motto is to keep the peace.”