The world has been shocked and outraged by the allegations of Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse cases. As the details of the alleged scandal continue to emerge, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the culture of silence surrounding sexual abuse in the entertainment industry has been an ugly reality for far too long. In the wake of these revelations, we must take a stand and demand that perpetrators of sexual abuse be held accountable for their actions.
In October 2017, the shocking allegations against Harvey Weinstein, one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, came to light, with The New York Times and The New Yorker publishing explosive reports detailing the numerous accusations of rape, sexual assault, and abuse against him. Over 80 women eventually accused Weinstein of such acts. Despite his denials, criminal investigations in Los Angeles, New York City, and London resulted in his arrest and conviction on charges of rape and criminal sexual acts. Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison in March 2020. The coverage of the scandal earned The New York Times and The New Yorker the Pulitzer Prize, and the Weinstein effect saw many powerful men being held accountable for their actions in various industries.
Harvey Weinstein, alongside his brother Bob Weinstein, co-founded Miramax, a film production company, and ran it from 1979 to 2005. In 1993, The Walt Disney Company purchased Miramax, but the Weinsteins remained in control until they left in September 2005 to establish The Weinstein Company (TWC) in March of that year. Rumors of Weinstein’s “casting couch” practices had circulated in Hollywood for years, with various entertainment figures making allusions to them. Gwyneth Paltrow spoke about Weinstein’s behavior on Late Show with David Letterman in 1998, and Courtney Love advised young actresses not to attend private parties with him in 2005. The allegations were also alluded to in an article for Pajiba in 2010 and in a character’s dialogue in the TV series 30 Rock in 2012. Director Quentin Tarantino had confronted Weinstein about his behavior, and Ivana Lowell wrote about Weinstein’s misbehavior in her book Why Not Say What Happened? Journalists had tried to report on Weinstein’s alleged behavior, but those who had been allegedly assaulted by him would not speak on the record. In 2015, Weinstein was questioned by police after a 22-year-old woman accused him of inappropriate touching, but no charges were filed against him by the district attorney’s office, which cited insufficient evidence of criminal intent.
Before his downfall, Harvey Weinstein co-founded Miramax, a film production company that ran from 1979 to 2005, alongside his brother Bob Weinstein. After The Walt Disney Company purchased Miramax in 1993, the Weinsteins remained in control until they left in September 2005 to establish The Weinstein Company (TWC) in March of that year. Rumors of Weinstein’s “casting couch” practices had circulated in Hollywood for years, but it wasn’t until 2017 that the allegations against him came to light, leading to his downfall. The allegations were alluded to in various instances over the years, including in a 2010 article for Pajiba and in a character’s dialogue in the TV series 30 Rock in 2012. Director Quentin Tarantino had confronted Weinstein about his behavior, and Ivana Lowell wrote about Weinstein’s misbehavior in her book Why Not Say What Happened? In 2015, Weinstein was questioned by police after a 22-year-old woman accused him of inappropriate touching, but no charges were filed against him by the district attorney’s office due to insufficient evidence of criminal intent.
Since the first allegations against Harvey Weinstein surfaced in 2017, over 80 women have come forward with accusations of sexual harassment, assault, or rape. In November of that year, a group of alleged victims, led by actress Asia Argento, released a list of over 100 instances of sexual abuse by Weinstein, dating back to 1980. The list includes 18 counts of rape. According to the women, Weinstein would lure young actresses and models into hotel rooms or offices under the guise of discussing their careers, only to demand massages or sex. He would tell his victims that sleeping with him would benefit their careers, citing Gwyneth Paltrow as an example, despite the fact that she had rejected his advances. Reports indicate that Weinstein’s activities were made possible by the complicity of his employees, associates, agents, lawyers, and publicists, who either set up meetings or suppressed complaints with payments and threats. Bob Weinstein was allegedly involved in three settlements with accusers, the first of which took place in 1990.
Harvey Weinstein’s response to the accusations against him was met with criticism from the public and media. In 2017, he apologized for the pain he had caused his colleagues and stated that he was taking a sabbatical to work on his issues with therapists. His lawyer, Lisa Bloom, described him as an “old dinosaur learning new ways,” but was criticized for her handling of his defense and ended her involvement with him. Weinstein then hired Sitrick and Company, a crisis PR firm, but they dropped him as a client in 2018. His attorney, Charles Harder, initially planned to sue The New York Times but stopped working with Weinstein by October 2017.
Weinstein denied all allegations of non-consensual sex, and his spokesperson claimed that there were never any acts of retaliation against women for refusing his advances. He began counseling and stated that he was pursuing a better path, hoping for a second chance. However, subsequent reports and accusations of rape were also met with denials. Weinstein’s attorney later sparked outrage in 2018 by stating that women who had sex with Hollywood producers to advance their careers and found it offensive did not experience rape, as they had made a conscious decision. The defense was described by journalists as gaslighting, with Weinstein going to extraordinary lengths to undermine the perceptions and reality of women he had sexually preyed upon, the journalists investigating their stories, and the public. Weinstein also hired Lisa Bloom, who had previously represented women sexually abused by Bill Cosby and women who accused Bill O’Reilly and Donald Trump of sexual misconduct, for her expertise. Weinstein granted interviews to the New York Post, touting his contributions to society, including helping women advance in Hollywood and his work on a charity concert that raised $100 million for 9/11 first responders through the Robin Hood Foundation.
In January 2018, Weinstein’s attorney released private emails from Ben Affleck and Jill Messick, Rose McGowan’s former manager, that contradicted McGowan’s version of the incident. However, on February 7, 2018, Messick committed suicide, and both the released emails and McGowan’s accusations against Messick led to increased negative public and media attention towards Messick, including cyberbullying. Messick’s family blamed Weinstein, McGowan, the media, and the public for her death. Journalist Ronan Farrow has alleged that Weinstein retained the intelligence/espionage firm Black Cube to uncover vulnerabilities and dissuade journalists who were closing in on him from going public. NBC allegedly did not air Farrow’s investigation of Weinstein because Weinstein threatened to disclose the sexual indiscretions of NBC’s The Today Show host Matt Lauer and MSNBC’s president, Phil Griffin.