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Sexual harassment

Actor Dustin Hoffman angered by grilling over groping claim

‘You weren’t there’: Hollywood legend fires back in angry exchanges with HBO host who questions Hoffman’s account of events after he was accused by a teenage intern on the set of the 1986 TV film Death of a Salesman

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 December, 2017, 5:13pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 December, 2017, 5:13pm

HBO host John Oliver hammered Dustin Hoffman on an allegation of sexual harassment and the actor fired back with a ferocious defence as a seemingly benign screening became an explosive conversation about Hollywood sexual misconduct.

“This is something we’re going to have to talk about because … it’s hanging in the air,” Oliver said to Hoffman at the discussion, an anniversary screening of the film Wag the Dog. He was alluding to an allegation made by Anna Graham Hunter last month that Hoffman groped her and made inappropriate comments when she was a 17-year-old intern on the set of the 1986 TV film Death of a Salesman.

“It’s hanging in the air?” Hoffman said. “From a few things you’ve read you’ve made an incredible assumption about me,” he said, adding, “You’ve made the case better than anyone else can. ‘I’m guilty.’”

The Last Week Tonight personality was moderating a 20th-anniversary screening panel for Tribeca Institute on Monday night, with stars Hoffman, Robert De Niro, producer Jane Rosenthal and director Barry Levinson, when Oliver raised the issue with Hoffman, saying he found Hoffman’s statements about the matter wanting.

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Hoffman had offered a conditional apology at the time of the allegation, and on Monday he underscored an “if” included in that statement, saying he didn’t really believe he had done anything wrong. He said he had not engaged in groping, didn’t recall meeting Graham Hunter and that all his comments on set were simply how members of “a family” talked to one another.

Oliver dismissed that as insufficient, then cited Hoffman’s response at the time of the allegation that his behaviour on set was “not reflective of” who Hoffman is.

“It’s that kind of statement that pisses me off,” Oliver said. “It’s ‘not reflective of who I am.’ But it is reflective of who you were.”

Several times Oliver sought to move on and talk about the film but Hoffman returned to the subject of harassment, growing testy as he said Oliver was not keeping an “open mind” and was “unquestionably believing accusers”. Oliver responded that he was unsatisfied by the actor’s statements and felt he was trivialising his accuser’s concerns.

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The back-and-forth centred on the Graham Hunter allegations and not a second claim, by the writer Wendy Riss Gatsiounis, that Hoffman had propositioned her inappropriately in a pitch meeting in 1991.

The exchange marked a rarity in the post-Harvey Weinstein era, which has seen accused harassers generally offer short statements, if they replied at all, about the allegations made against them; very few have engaged in long public conversations about it, and almost none have sounded as defiant as Hoffman did on Monday night.

The conversation grew increasingly angry.

“You weren’t there,” Hoffman said to Oliver about the Salesman set.

“I’m glad [I wasn’t],” the host replied.