Disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein was confronted at an Arizona restaurant Tuesday night by a man who slapped him and berated him, calling him a “piece of s**t.” The incident took place at Elements restaurant in Scottsdale. TMZ reports that Weinstein was having dinner with his “sober coach” when two men came in and were seated nearby. One of the men, named Steve, asked Weinstein for a photo and claims that the ex-mogul became belligerent. Not so says the restaurant’s manager who witnessed the encounter.
The manager of the restaurant says Weinstein was not belligerent — she says to the contrary he was “very sweet about it” and said, “I’d rather not take a picture right now.” The manager says the two shook hands and Steve went back to his table.
That seemed to be the end of it but later, around 9 pm both tables got up to leave around the same time:
Steve tells TMZ he had “quite a bit to drink,” told his friend to fire up his cell phone and shoot video of what was about to happen.
Steve says he walked up to Weinstein and said, “You’re such a piece of s*** for what you did to these women,” and then punched him in the face twice. He says Weinstein stumbled backward and almost fell.
Here’s the video of the encounter shot by Steve’s friend.
A few things about this encounter. First, Steve must have been drinking quite a bit if he considers that backhanded tap a punch. That said, it is assault and given that there is video evidence and probably a bunch of witnesses in the room, he would have had a hard time denying it. He’s lucky that Weinstein is eager to avoid the press and didn’t call the police.
Second, this is a pretty good example of altruistic punishment in action, i.e. people taking pleasure in punishing those who some mass of people has decided deserves to be punished. You can see this sort of thing acted on a smaller scale on Twitter and other social media every day. It doesn’t always end well there because mobs aren’t very smart and sometimes, pretty often, they get it wrong.
The fact that Weinstein is (allegedly) a rapist means he should be charged, convicted and put in jail. It doesn’t mean he should be a punching bag for every drunk in his vicinity. As a society we grant the state a monopoly on dealing with interpersonal violence, i.e. we discourage vigilantes and for good reason. Maybe I’d feel a bit differently if Steve-the-slapper had some personal connection to one of the victims. I’m not saying that would make it okay, but it would be understandable why he acted out. But that doesn’t seem to be the case here. It appears Steve is just acting out mob justice (and doing so in a way that would later create a video clip he could sell to TMZ).
Finally, there’s really no denying that Weinstein is a POS. He deserves a lot worse than a couple of mild raps on the cheek. Hopefully, investigators in London, New York, or Los Angeles will be able to charge him with crimes and he’ll wind up in jail. If that fails, his victims should be able to sue him in civil court until he is forced to settle for meals at Wendys instead of Elements restaurant. I really do hope for the very worst for him, but not at the hands of a self-appointed goon squad. That’s a slippery slope we should all agree to avoid.