Super-producer Harvey Weinstein apologises after sexual harassment claims
Oscar-winner Weinstein takes leave from his own company after report describes decades of misconduct against women, including actresses Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan
Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein issued an apology and announced he was taking leave after The New York Times published a bombshell report accusing him of sexual harassment over several decades.
“I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologise for it,” the film mogul said on Thursday.
Weinstein said that he had hired therapists and planned to take a leave of absence “to deal with this issue head on”.
Lisa Bloom, one of Weinstein’s lawyers who specialises in sexual harassment cases, separately said her 65-year-old client “denies many of the accusations as patently false”.
“He has acknowledged mistakes he has made,” she said. “He is reading books and going to therapy. He is an old dinosaur learning new ways.”
Another lawyer, Charles Harder, said his firm was planning to sue The New York Times over the story, claiming it was “saturated with false and defamatory statements”.
According to the Times, Weinstein’s allegedly inappropriate behaviour goes back nearly three decades and he has reached private settlements with at least eight women.
His accusers, the paper said, were mainly young women hoping to break into the film industry, including actresses Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd.
Judd told the paper about being invited to Weinstein’s suite at a plush Beverly Hills hotel two decades ago expecting a breakfast meeting to discuss business.
Instead, the actress said, Weinstein appeared in a dressing gown and asked if she could give him a massage or watch him shower.
Two former assistants and an Italian model made similar accusations and allegedly reached settlements.
One of the assistants was allegedly badgered by Weinstein into giving him a massage while he was naked, leaving her “crying and very distraught” in the words of a colleague, Lauren O’Connor, the Times said.
Another woman advised a peer to wear a parka when meeting with Weinstein to ward off his advances, the paper said.
O’Connor said Weinstein, who cofounded Miramax and is co-chairman of The Weinstein Company, had created “a toxic environment for women” at his firm.
Many in the entertainment industry spoke out on Thursday in the wake of the report, expressing support for the alleged victims.
“The women who chose to speak about their experience of harassment by Harvey Weinstein deserve our awe,” actress and self-proclaimed feminist Lena Dunham said in a tweet. “It’s not fun or easy, it’s brave.”
McGowan also published a series of tweets, jokingly saying in one of them that she wanted “to buy the film rights”.
In his statement, Weinstein said he had been working over the past year with Bloom and a team of therapists “to learn about myself and conquer my demons.”
He appeared to justify his alleged misconduct saying he had come of age in the ‘60s and ‘70s “when all the rules about behaviour and workplaces were different”.
“That was the culture then,” he said. “I have since learned it’s not an excuse, in the office – or out of it. To anyone.”
Weinstein, who is married to English fashion designer Georgina Chapman, with whom he has two children, is considered a powerhouse in Hollywood and many of his movies have picked up Oscars over the years, including Good Will Hunting, and The Artist.
He formed the Miramax production house in the late 1970s with his brother and then sold it to Disney. The pair went on to create The Weinstein Company, producing such hits as The King’s Speech, The Butler and Django Unchained.