It’s amazing how one of the most reliably progressive newspapers in the country is treated as an irresponsible right-wing gossip rag the moment it dares to report bad news on someone like Hillary Clinton or, in this case, Harvey Weinstein. Yesterday, a few hours after the paper published its blockbuster story detailing decades of sexual harassment by Weinstein, the Hollywood mogul’s attorney, Charles J. Harder, said a lawsuit against the Times would be forthcoming. From Page Six:
Harder said in a statement on behalf of Weinstein, exclusively given to Page Six, “The New York Times published today a story that is saturated with false and defamatory statements about Harvey Weinstein. It relies on mostly hearsay accounts and a faulty report, apparently stolen from an employee personnel file, which has been debunked by 9 different eyewitnesses. We sent the Times the facts and evidence, but they ignored it and rushed to publish. We are preparing the lawsuit now. All proceeds will be donated to women’s organizations.”
Harder did not say how much they planned to sue for, but sources said Weinstein would go after the publication for as much as $50 million.
The donation to women’s organizations is a nice touch. Even after he’s been revealed as a cad, Weinstein is still thinking about women’s rights. Charles Harder is the same attorney who won the lawsuit brought against Gawker by Terry Bollea aka Hulk Hogan, so he has some experience winning suits like this. But Bollea won his lawsuit in part because Gawker’s report included edited portions of a sex-tape featuring shots of Bollea’s genitals. A jury agreed that Gawker had gone too far. Can the same be said of the NY Times in this case? From a separate story published by Page Six, here are Weinstein’s specific complaints about the NY Times’ journalism:
“The Times had a deal with us that they would tell us about the people they had on the record in the story, so we could respond appropriately, but they didn’t live up to the bargain…
Weinstein explained, “They never wrote about the documentary I did with Jay-Z about Rikers Island, they never write that I raised $50 million for amfAR, nor my work with Robin Hood — instead they focus on trying to bring me down. This is a vendetta, and the next time I see [Times executive editor] Dean Baquet, it will be across a courtroom.”
Weinstein said the Times had based their story entirely on a 2014 memo written by employee Lauren O’Connor, which alleged sexual harassment and other misconduct by Weinstein.
He explained, “The Times used that entire memo as the basis of their story, but in reality it was withdrawn two days after it was written, O’Connor withdrew her complaint, and withdrew her claims made in the memo. The document doesn’t stand up.”
I don’t know what “deal” Weinstein had with the NY Times but I doubt they promised to give him as long as he needed to offer a formal response. That’s not usually how these things work. As for the Times’ story being entirely based on a withdrawn memo, that’s false according to the story itself:
An investigation by The New York Times found previously undisclosed allegations against Mr. Weinstein stretching over nearly three decades, documented through interviews with current and former employees and film industry workers, as well as legal records, emails and internal documents from the businesses he has run, Miramax and the Weinstein Company…
Dozens of Mr. Weinstein’s former and current employees, from assistants to top executives, said they knew of inappropriate conduct while they worked for him. Only a handful said they ever confronted him.
Finally, Weinstein says the O’Connor memo was withdrawn days later but doesn’t mention why it was withdrawn. If you guessed it was because O’Connor reached a settlement with Weinstein, you’re correct:
Mr. Weinstein had reached a settlement with Ms. O’Connor, and there was no longer anything to investigate.
“Because this matter has been resolved and no further action is required, I withdraw my complaint,” Ms. O’Connor wrote in an email to the head of human resources six days after sending her memo. She also wrote a letter to Mr. Weinstein thanking him for the opportunity to learn about the entertainment industry.
Take from that what you will, but I don’t think the only conclusion one can draw here is that Harvey Weinstein did nothing wrong or that the memo was false.