It’s a classic Hollywood ending. After a courtroom drama that leaves nothing to the imagination, the fat, ugly, old, white guy is found guilty of raping the young, beautiful women whom he’d said he would help. It’s Little Red Riding Hood with Harvey Weinstein cast as the Wolf but this is Hollywood with a twist. The villainous movie mogul is a big donor to the Democrats. He’s embraced by the Clintons despite the warnings they receive about his appalling ways. He’s pals with the Obamas and gives their daughter an internship. His lawyer represented Al Gore in his battle with George Bush to become president. He employs a team of operatives to gather intelligence on his victims including a former Guardian journalist who spies on the women the mogul has raped.
The Life and Crimes of Harvey Weinstein is a nightmare for America’s liberal Left. Hollywood loved making a film about Roger Ailes, the long-time CEO of Fox News who was forced to resign after his serial sexual harassment of female employees was exposed. Ailes promoted or punished them depending on whether they acquiesced to his behaviour, but Hollywood expects such a man to be a monster — after all, he worked for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H W Bush and Rudy Giuliani. But who will make the blockbuster that blows the whistle on Hollywood’s worst-kept secret to which it turned a blind eye?
Almost everybody — except for Meryl Streep, of course — seemed to know what Weinstein was doing. You didn’t need to an insider; all you had to do was tune into the Late Show with David Letterman in 1998, to hear Gwyneth Paltrow reveal that Weinstein ‘will coerce you to do a thing or two.’ Not long after she was contracted to play Emma in the Jane Austen classic, Weinstein aged 42 invited her, aged 22, to his hotel room, placed his hands on her shoulders and suggested they retire to the bedroom for a massage. Paltrow said no but was terrified she would lose her role. That a woman whose parents were big names in the film business could be targeted shows a certain amount of chutzpah, but boyfriend Brad Pitt came to the rescue. He told Weinstein, at the Broadway opening of Hamlet, ‘If you ever make her feel uncomfortable again, I’ll kill you.’ It gives a new spin to Weinstein’s 1998 production, starring Paltrow, of Shakespeare in Love. Yet Paltrow was one of dozens of stars to praise and thank Weinstein at the Academy Awards.
In 2005, Courtney Love was asked at the Pamela Anderson Comedy Central Roast what advice she’d give to aspiring actresses and said, ‘If Harvey Weinstein invites you to a private party in the Four Seasons, don’t go.’ Love says she was blacklisted for speaking up.
In 2010, Guinness heiress Ivana Lowell, who worked for Weinstein at Miramax Books in the 1990s published a memoir, Why Not Say What Happened?, in which she did just that, recounting how Weinstein once showed up at her apartment, lay on the bed naked and asked for, you guessed it, a massage. She says she told him to ‘piss off’ and naively dismissed his exploits as ‘stupid shenanigans,’ because he didn’t have any power over her. When her book came out, however, he rang her up, screaming that she made him look like a pervert, threatening to sue her and calling her a liar.
Eventually, Weinstein became a joke. In the hit TV show 30 Rock, in 2012, J-Mo says, ‘I’m not afraid of anyone in show business, I turned down intercourse with Harvey Weinstein on no less than three occasions, out of five.’ Indeed, while announcing the 2013 Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress, Seth MacFarlane joked, ‘Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.’
Journalists who tried to write about Weinstein ran into trouble finding someone who would go on the record. Former reporter for the New York Times Sharon Waxman filed a piece in 2004 but claims it was spiked after Weinstein, whose company was a big advertiser, brought pressure to bear. The NYT disputes her claim saying they didn’t publish because the woman in question had signed a non-disclosure agreement. That is not unusual. Many of Weinstein’s victims were pressured into signing such agreements, some of them negotiated by those grandstanding left-liberal lawyers.
A big part of what protected Weinstein was what the NYT called a ‘wall of invulnerability’ that he constructed through donations to Democrats, including US$250,000 to the Clinton Foundation, about $US1.4 million to the Democrats in 1992, another $US30,000 mostly to Hillary Clinton’s campaigns and around $US45,000 to Barack Obama.
Still, eventually, Weinstein ended up in court. His defence —and the grounds for his appeal — will be based, among other things, on maintaining that the encounters were consensual. His victims say they repeatedly rejected his advances but eventually caved in. They went on to have consensual — albeit unwanted sex — with Weinstein. They kept up friendly email contact with one signing off ‘with lots of love’ and the other sending him emails saying she loved him, and he was a blessing in her life. Weinstein’s attorneys point to that friendly relationship to make the case that the women were willing participants in the acts. In neither case, did the women report him to the police until years later. But even when another of Weinstein’s victims did, the police did nothing, even though they recorded Weinstein confessing that he had groped her. Yet this transcript, leaked to the New Yorker played a crucial role in exposing Weinstein. Around a hundred women have now come forward with allegations of sexual assault or harassment, including bizarre claims about him ejaculating into flowerpots. Had each of these women made the painful decision to report Weinstein’s behaviour at the time, he would have been brought to justice sooner.
This sordid saga isn’t over. There will be an appeal and a separate trial is already under way. In the meantime, perhaps Hollywood could reflect on its dismal role in this affair and if its stars want to make amends they could spare us the finger-wagging sermons in future and keep as schtum about politics and global warming as they did about the gorilla in their midst.
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