Why you should care
Could the Weinstein scandal prove to be a tipping point when it comes to addressing a culture of sexual harassment?
This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.
Why You Should Care
Who is Harvey Weinstein? A trailblazing Hollywood producer who, along with his brother, Bob, was behind award-winning films like Shakespeare in Love and Pulp Fiction. A 2015 analysis of Oscar acceptance speeches found Weinstein was thanked more often than God. Over his long career, Weinstein garnered a reputation as both a charming tastemaker and a hot-tempered, vindictive bully. “If I didn’t exist, they’d have to invent me,” Weinstein once said. “I’m the only interesting thing around.”
What did he do? Last Thursday, a devastating New York Times story documented a long history of sexual harassment allegations against the producer from actresses and employees, including Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan. As additional victims came forward with stories about Weinstein cornering them in hallways, requesting massages in hotel rooms, and harassing them in the workplace, the Weinstein Company fired its co-founder on Sunday. Now both Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie have offered their own accounts of his inappropriate behavior.
What impact has the story had? The revelations about Weinstein’s conduct, like previous ones about Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly and former Fox News chief Roger Ailes, have rattled the male-dominated worlds of politics, media and entertainment. Could the Weinstein scandal prove to be a tipping point when it comes to addressing a culture of sexual harassment by men in power? Tune in to Third Rail With OZY on PBS at 8:30 p.m. ET this Friday, when we’ll host a full discussion.
WHAT TO KNOW
The lost tycoon. Weinstein’s response has been equal parts contrition and counterattack: He issued an apology saying he would seek therapy, but at the same time his lawyers claimed that the Times story was “saturated with false and defamatory statements,” and he was sending private emails to beg fellow Hollywood executives for support. “I am desperate for your help,” he wrote. “Do not let me be fired.”
Shock and aw, shucks. Hollywood has taken on sex trafficking and sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, but condemning one of its own has proven more challenging. As film studios and men in Hollywood remained largely silent initially, a number of prominent actresses began to speak out, including Weinstein’s friends Meryl Streep and Judi Dench, who called the claims “horrifying” and “inexcusable.” Fashion designer Donna Karan defended her “wonderful” friend and said women should consider if they are “asking for it” by the way they dress. She has since apologized.
Et tu, Gray Lady? Even the Times, which broke the story, is under fire, including from former reporter Sharon Waxman, who claimed that the newspaper spiked her 2004 story on Weinstein after pressure from the mogul. Jonathan Landman, a former Times editor, shot back that the newspaper wouldn’t have assigned a reporter to the story if it were intent on protecting Weinstein.
Will the Left do the right thing? Weinstein’s prolific donations and fundraising for Democrats have placed the party, which condemned similar sexual harassment allegations made against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump a year ago, in an awkward position. In response, the Democratic National Committee and a number of recipients of Weinstein’s largesse, including Sen. Chuck Schumer, have said they will be regifting the donations to charities supporting women.
Crime and punishment. The Times reported that Weinstein paid off his accusers for decades. In another space — college campuses — punishing sexual harassment and assault-related crimes may only be getting more difficult: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos recently rescinded campus sexual assault guidelines created by the Obama administration this past September.
What’s next? Will the Weinstein scandal embolden more women in Hollywood to speak out about harassment and force the industry to ostracize other prominent predators? “I see this as a tipping point,” Jenni Konner, executive producer of Girls, told the Times. Weinstein’s firing “is going to scare any man in Hollywood using his power for anything but making movies and television.” On the flipside, some worry the events could have a Mike Pence effect — of men refusing to take meetings alone with women.
WHAT TO READ
Men Must Step Up to Change the Hollywood Culture That Enabled Harvey Weinstein, by Maureen Ryan in Variety.
“There is a powerful toxicity at the heart of the media and entertainment businesses, which are so competitive that those seeking entry are ripe targets for abuse and cruelties of all kinds.”
Hollywood Women Must Give Harvey Weinstein the Donald Trump Treatment, by S.E. Cupp in NY Daily News.
“Why did the women of Hollywood protect a serial sexual harasser who treated women so horrifically for so long? How could they, with straight faces, self-righteously march against Trump … all the while embracing Weinstein, showering him with awards, and honoring him at galas?”
WHAT TO WATCH
Women of Late Night React to Harvey Weinstein’s Apology
“I was disgusted and shocked that people were shocked.”
Harvey Weinstein: ‘I Had a Great Time,’ After Harassing Journalist Lauren Sivan
“There are ways of retaliating that don’t look like retaliation.”
Land of the dinosaurs? Lisa Bloom, Weinstein’s former legal adviser, defended her former boss as “an old dinosaur learning new ways,” but pervasive sexual harassment is just one of Hollywood’s regressive traits. According to USC Annenberg’s School for Communication and Journalism, actresses received just 31.4 percent of speaking roles in the top 100 films released last year, and more than a quarter of women in those films were wearing sexy attire, compared with 5.7 percent of men.