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Sexual harassment and assault

The year the dam burst on allegations of sexual misconduct against powerful men

Dozens of powerful men – including the US president – stand accused of sexual misconduct, ensuring 2017 marks a watershed cultural moment

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 December, 2017, 2:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 December, 2017, 7:44pm

Accusations of sexual misconduct by powerful men are by no means a new phenomenon but they poured forth in 2017 on an unprecedented scale.

Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein may have been the most significant figure to have been brought down as a result, with the sheer number of allegations against him leading to a critical mass. But the #MeToo moment could arguably be traced back to the election of Donald Trump last year, in spite of the notorious Access Hollywood tape in which he bragged about sexual assault.

The damage inflicted on Trump as a result is hard to measure – he was still elected, after all. But it is impossible to ignore the heightened awareness promoted by the subsequent allegations against others.

Watch: Harvey Weinstein sex scandal

Ben Affleck: the Batman star appeared on late-night television to explain the deluge of accusations against Weinstein, but he was also accused of groping several women. Indeed, former MTV host Hilarie Burton recalled Affleck “tweaking” her breast during a live taping in 2003.

Casey Affleck: the younger Affleck brother won an Academy Award earlier this year for his performance in Manchester By The Sea but his rise to fame was stalked by allegations of sexual assault dating back to 2010. It remains to be seen whether he will be invited to present the Best Actress award in 2018.

Roger Ailes: as the founder and long-time chairman of Fox News, Ailes reshaped American politics – the right-wing, in particular. But he was also accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct, prompting Rupert Murdoch to fire him in 2016. Ailes died, aged 77, in May.

Mario Batali: the US chef, restaurateur and media figure announced he would take leave from running his various businesses after he was accused of sexual misconduct by four women. One women claimed he deliberately spilled wine on her chest at a party and then proceeded to grope her.

George H.W. Bush: now 93, the 41st president of the US faced accusations from several women he groped them from his wheelchair while posing with them for group photographs. One woman recalled him joking: “Do you want to know who my favourite magician is? David Cop-a-Feel!”

Nick Carter: Melissa Schuman, an actress and singer, claimed Carter, a member of 90s boy band the Backstreet Boys, invited her to his flat in Santa Monica in 2004, where he raped her. “I wanted to believe it was some sort of nightmare I was dreaming up,” she wrote on her blog.

Louis CK: the celebrated comedian, writer and actor admitted to sexual misconduct and expressed remorse after an article in The New York Times claimed he masturbated or asked to masturbate in front of several women. “At the time, I said to myself that what I did was OK because I never showed a woman my d*** without asking first,” he said.

John Conyers: at 88, Conyers was the longest-serving lawmaker in US Congress. But he was accused of sexual harassment towards staffers in his office and settled one claim of harassment. He has denied the allegations, even the one he settled, before resigning.

Richard Dreyfuss: the Jaws star’s own son was among Kevin Spacey’s accusers but the elder Dreyfuss was subsequently accused by writer Jessica Teich of harassing her for months and exposing himself to her in the 1980s. She said: “He was at the back of the trailer, and just – his penis was out, and he sort of tried to draw me close to it.”

Al Franken: the Democratic senator from Michigan resigned after more than a half-dozen women said he touched them improperly or made unwanted sexual advances. Franken noted, however, that he was being held to a different standard than President Trump and added “some of the allegations against me simply are not true”.

After #MeToo comes Now What? as women host forum to push for change in Hong Kong community

Mark Halperin: one of America’s most prominent political journalists was accused by several women of sexually harassing them, including propositioning employees for sex, grabbing one woman’s breasts without her consent and pressing an erection against another while he was wearing clothes.

Dustin Hoffman: Anna Graham Hunter, a production assistant on Death of a Salesman in 1985, claimed the actor harassed and assaulted her on set when she was just 17 years old. Five more women later came forward to accuse Hoffman of sexual assault, with two alleging they were in their teens when he exposed himself to them.

John Lasseter: the Pixar co-founder and Walt Disney Animation chief announced he would take a six-month leave of absence, citing “missteps” with employees. A report in The Hollywood Reporter detailed a culture in which Lasseter was known to hug, kiss and grope female employees.

Watch: Kevin Spacey apologises

Matt Lauer: the NBC news anchor, who was paid US$25 million a year, was sacked in November after a series of sexual misconduct allegations came to light. Lauer also had a button under his desk that allowed him to lock his office door from the inside without getting up, Variety reported.

Roy Moore: the former Alabama Supreme Court judge was already a polarising figure in US politics but the scrutiny intensified further when his Senate candidacy was engulfed by accusations he molested a teenage girl while in his 30s. He refused to withdraw his candidacy but was ultimately defeated by his Democratic opponent – a rarity in the staunchly Republican state.

Bill O’Reilly: the Fox News host was sacked in April after advertisers deserted him en masse over sexual harassment charges. It later emerged he had agreed a US$32 million sexual harassment settlement in January, and the network’s parent company knew about the deal when it gave him a new contract the following month.

Backlash in Hong Kong against the ‘Me Too’ campaign

Jeremy Piven: the Entourage star was accused by reality TV star Ariane Bellamar of cornering her in his trailer and forcefully groping her. Piven offered a strident defence, saying: “I unequivocally deny the appalling allegations being peddled about me. It did not happen.”

Brett Ratner: the Rush Hour director was accused by at least six women of sexual misconduct: actress Natasha Henstridge claimed he forced her to perform oral sex at his flat; Olivia Munn, another actress, said he masturbated in front of her in his trailer after answering the door semi-naked with a shrimp cocktail in one hand.

Terry Richardson: lurid stories have for years surrounded the fashion photographer known for his “porno chic” aesthetic, along with claims he exploited young models and coerced them into performing sex acts. In October, several magazines and brands indicated they would no longer work with Richardson.

Charlie Rose: eight women accused the CBS anchor of making unwanted sexual advances towards them, leading to his sacking in November. The women, including many former CBS employees, claimed Rose walked naked around them and groped their breasts, buttocks and genitals. Rose apologised but insisted the allegations were not accurate.

Steven Seagal: the action star was accused by actress Portia de Rossi of unzipping his pants during an audition. Former Playboy model Jenny McCarthy revisited an accusation from 1998, claiming Seagal had asked her to lower her dress during an audition, insisting there was “off-camera nudity” involved in the role.

Russell Simmons: the rap mogul stepped away from his Def Jam label in November after two women accused him of assault. Three other women subsequently came forward and claimed he had raped them, with some of the accusations dating back to the 1980s. “These horrific accusations have shocked me to my core and all of my relations have been consensual,” Simmons said.

US President Donald Trump takes to Twitter to dismiss accusations of sexual misconduct

Tom Sizemore: the Saving Private Ryan actor was kicked off the set of Born Killers in 2003 after he allegedly touched an 11-year-old girl’s genitals during a photo shoot. Sizemore is well-known for his lengthy rap sheet, which includes multiple drug and domestic abuse charges. However, he denied the accusations of sexual assault.

Kevin Spacey: the two-time Oscar winner’s career went into free fall after being accused by multiple men of sexual misconduct, including the attempted rape of a 15-year-old boy. In recent years, Spacey has starred in Netflix production House Of Cards but the company announced in November it had severed ties with the actor.

George Takei: the 80-year-old Star Trek actor was accused by Scott Brunton, a former male model, of groping him but Takei offered an emphatic denial. “The events he describes back in the 1980s simply did not occur, and I do not know why he has claimed them now,” Takei wrote on Twitter. “I have wracked my brain to ask if I remember Mr Brunton, and I cannot say I do.”

Watch: Trump accusers seek public reckoning

Jeffrey Tambor: the Transparent actor announced he had quit the Amazon series after being accused by his former assistant, who claimed Tambor played pornography loudly in front of her and touched her backside. “I adamantly and vehemently reject and deny any and all implication and allegation that I have ever engaged in any improper behaviour toward this person,” Tambor said.

Donald Trump: the US president’s campaign was nearly derailed by an audio tape of him bragging about sexual assault and accusations of sexual misconduct have since been renewed. At least 16 women have accused Trump but White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president “has addressed these accusations directly and denied all of these allegations”.

Harvey Weinstein: Trump aside, Weinstein was the biggest domino to fall in the deluge of sexual misconduct allegations against powerful men. The Hollywood mogul faces dozens of accusations of sexual assault and intimidation, as well as at least two allegations of rape. Details continue to emerge about Weinstein’s network of enablers who helped him conceal his behaviour.