Hollywood power broker and political activist Harvey Weinstein finds himself locked out of the company he co-founded after an exposé by the New York Times triggered an avalanche of sexual harassment allegations. His eponymous firm announced late yesterday that Weinstein, who had been on indefinite leave, would be definitely leaving — permanently. The Weinstein Co. referred to “new information” as the cause of the decision, but did not specify what that might be:
Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has been terminated from his position at the Weinstein Co., according to a statement from the board of directors on Sunday.
The move to oust Weinstein came just days after the high-powered Hollywood film producer was thrust into the spotlight after the New York Times published a report Thursday that revealed decades of sexual harassment claims by actresses and female employees against him. …
In its decision Sunday, the Weinstein Co.’s board of directors said that “new information” about the executive’s conduct informed their decision.
“New information”? Or simply a new inability to contain the truth? Yesterday morning, Page Six’s Richard Johnson reported that New York Magazine had the Weinstein story a year ago — well before the election — but got intimidated by Weinstein into shutting it down:
Reporter Ben Wallace spent months interviewing dozens of people in Weinstein’s world in the hope of exposing Weinstein’s history of sexual aggression toward young women.
“New York magazine had the story a year ago, and Harvey had it killed,” one source told me.
“Harvey was sweating bullets. He sat down with Editor-in-Chief Adam Moss, and they were still going ahead. Then, it suddenly went away. The reporter must be kicking himself now.”
The Wrap’s Sharon Waxman has Johnson beat. Waxman claims that she investigated Weinstein for the New York Times in 2004 and had the story ready to roll. Interventions by Weinstein, Russell Crowe, and Matt Damon pressured the Paper of Record into spiking it instead, Waxman alleges:
After intense pressure from Weinstein, which included having Matt Damon and Russell Crowe call me directly to vouch for Lombardo and unknown discussions well above my head at the Times, the story was gutted.
I was told at the time that Weinstein had visited the newsroom in person to make his displeasure known. I knew he was a major advertiser in the Times, and that he was a powerful person overall.
But I had the facts, and this was the Times. Right?
Wrong. The story was stripped of any reference to sexual favors or coercion and buried on the inside of the Culture section, an obscure story about Miramax firing an Italian executive. Who cared?
Waxman revealed this in response to a “sanctimonious” paean by the NYT’s Jim Rutenberg to his paper’s courage in confronting Weinstein and his “media enablers.” Color her unimpressed:
Writes Rutenberg: “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.”
The New York Times was one of those enablers. So pardon me for having a deeply ambivalent response about the current heroism of the Times.
The new information appears mostly to be that the old information is now out, and gaining more depth as more women come forward about Weinstein. The threats of $50 million lawsuits didn’t work this time, and suddenly Weinstein’s Hollywood pals have declined to defend him, at least publicly. Of course, most of them have declined to say anything at all, including the supposed progressive vanguard of late-night television hosts, who have spent the last few days looking for anything else to discuss.
The NYT’s Jodi Kantor tells CBS This Morning that there is a “heavy intimidation facto” when reporting on Weinstein, without detailing origin and nature of it in this case:
— CBS News (@CBSNews) October 9, 2017
Now that Weinstein’s out, a few of Hollywood’s A-list might start finally addressing the issue. This morning, HuffPost’s Yashar Ali got a statement from Meryl Streep, in which she claims that “not everybody knew”:
“The disgraceful news about Harvey Weinstein has appalled those of us whose work he championed, and those whose good and worthy causes he supported. The intrepid women who raised their voices to expose this abuse are our heroes.
One thing can be clarified. Not everybody knew. Harvey supported the work fiercely, was exasperating but respectful with me in our working relationship, and with many others with whom he worked professionally. I didn’t know about these other offenses: I did not know about his financial settlements with actresses and colleagues; I did not know about his having meetings in his hotel room, his bathroom, or other inappropriate, coercive acts. And If everybody knew, I don’t believe that all the investigative reporters in the entertainment and the hard news media would have neglected for decades to write about it.
The behavior is inexcusable, but the abuse of power familiar. Each brave voice that is raised, heard and credited by our watchdog media will ultimately change the game.”
“Not everybody knew” is an excuse. Clearly enough people knew in 2004 for Waxman to put together a report for the NYT, and to have A-list interventions spike the story. Enough people knew in 2016 to have New York Magazine get a story ready enough for Weinstein to pressure them into dropping the matter. Apparently, it was well-known enough inside Hollywood for the Tina Fey series 30 Rock to make a joke about Weinstein being a sexual predator in 2012. If two significant publications outside the entertainment industry had enough knowledge to conduct investigative projects into Weinstein, we can readily assume that the entertainment media could have picked up on it.
So why didn’t they? Weinstein knew how to flex his influence and power. They didn’t want to report it, and probably didn’t want to know about it. Now that he’s lost that power and influence, everyone will finally hail the women who came forward as heroes, but without answering this question: who are the other Weinsteins in Hollywood? Will they also get a media pass because of their power — and their political activism?
Addendum: It’s not just the Weinsteins in Hollywood whose abuse gets excused as an “open secret,” either. Who are the other Murphys and Mosychuks in Washington DC?
Update: I misspelled Yashar Ali’s first name in the original version of this post. It’s been corrected, and my apologies to Yashar.