by Maureen Callahan · October 9, 2017
No one knew.
That’s the party line in Hollywood regarding Harvey Weinstein, the once-powerful producer revealed as a decades-long sexual predator.
This morning — five days after the New York Times exposé and hours after Weinstein was fired from his company — Meryl Streep, Hollywood’s grande dame, issued a statement.
“Not everybody knew,” Streep said in part. “I didn’t know.” She called Weinstein’s alleged behavior “disgraceful” and “appalling.”
“And if everybody knew,” she continued, “I don’t believe that all the investigative reporters in the entertainment and the hard news media would have neglected for decades to write about it.”
That last claim isn’t just unfair; it’s incorrect. In the wake of Thursday’s exposé, multiple high-profile journalists reported their own attempts over decades to break the story. On The Cut, Rebecca Traister wrote that in 2000, while covering a pre-election party Weinstein was throwing, Weinstein called her a “c – – t” in response to a question he didn’t like, then threw another reporter down a flight of stairs and dragged him outside in a headlock. Such was Weinstein’s power, Traister wrote, that no other reporters covered the incident and no photos ever appeared.
Veteran Hollywood reporter Kim Masters wrote that she had a confrontation with Weinstein over this very issue 20 years ago. Sharon Waxman wrote that she tried to break the story in 2004, but after pressure from Weinstein and calls from defenders Russell Crowe and Matt Damon, the Times softened and buried it.
Professional good-guy Damon serving as Harvey Weinstein’s character witness only adds to the sordidness. Damon has four daughters. Where is he now?
As recently as September, Weinstein also reportedly enlisted George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Heidi Klum and Ryan Gosling to defend him against charges of re-routing $600,000 in funds raised for amfAR, the world’s leading AIDS charity, to help stage a musical.
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AmfAR board chairman Kenneth Cole defended Weinstein. “This wasn’t just a man on the street asking — it was someone who has raised a lot of money for us,” he told the Times. “One tends to address requests based on whom they’re coming from.”
It’s precisely this sliding scale of moral outrage — no behavior is that bad if it’s our guy doing it — that alienates middle America, red-state America, from Hollywood. Awards show ratings have been on the decline since 2014, partly because no one wants to hear lectures from the hypocritical Hollywood elite — defenders of Woody Allen and Roman Polanski — on how to live, whom to vote for, what to believe.
Hollywood has no problem weaponizing itself as a single organism against people, ideas and causes the community deems unimpeachable: gun control, immigration, the Republican party, the removal of Donald Trump.
Not so when it comes to one of its own. Doubt over Weinstein’s guilt isn’t the animating factor; as Brooks Barnes reported in the Times, Weinstein’s been the main topic of industry conversation, but few want to speak up.
“There is still a lot of fear,” Variety editor Claudia Eller said. “Is Harvey really done?”
Actress Rose McGowan, who reached a settlement with Weinstein after a 1997 “incident,” took to Twitter.
“Ladies of Hollywood,” she wrote, “your silence is deafening.”
On October 8, McGowan posed a photo of herself taken that same year, writing, “This is the girl that was hurt by a monster. This is who you are shaming with your silence.”
This is the girl that was hurt by a monster. This is who you are shaming with your silence. pic.twitter.com/TrtRNiYfIT
— rose mcgowan (@rosemcgowan) October 8, 2017
Why won’t Hollywood weaponize against Weinstein? The balance of power has firmly shifted. How perverse that the industry fears Weinstein isn’t done. Only they could make it so.
What’s more ripe for satire than a grossly overweight, pockmarked bully calling one slender actress a “fat pig” while chasing unwilling starlets around hotel rooms? Yet this weekend “Saturday Night Live” — revived by mocking Donald Trump weekly — avoided Weinstein altogether. Lorne Michaels admitted he killed related jokes after dress rehearsal. “It’s a New York thing,” he said.
A “New York thing” making global headlines.
At January’s Golden Globes, Streep made a full-throated and fair denunciation of Donald Trump. “There was one performance this year that stunned me . . . It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back.”
Sounds all too familiar — but by the time awards season rolls around, who really thinks Weinstein gets his? Just look at late-night talk shows, which tackle Trump with ferocity; aside from John Oliver, not one host has addressed Weinstein’s bullying and sexual predation on air.
Not everyone knew? Tina Fey knew. Back in 2012, Fey’s sitcom “30 Rock” made direct reference. “I’m not afraid of anyone in show business,” Jane Krakowski’s character said. “I turned down intercourse with Harvey Weinstein on no less than three occasions . . . out of five.”
Harvey Weinstein fired from his own company
Harvey Weinstein has been fired from the Weinstein Company.
“Harvey’s Girls” has been an Internet meme since 2010 — the list of young blonde ingénues cast in Weinstein’s films, hyped as the next big thing, only to be cast aside.
“Tell Us What You Know About Harvey Weinstein’s ‘Open Secret’ ” showbiz site Defamer posted in 2015. The accompanying article alleged that the industry knew Weinstein was even worse than Bill Cosby.
Ashley Judd told the Times that most everyone knew. “Women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time,” she said, “and it’s simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly.”
“The media’s white whale,” former Us Weekly and Hollywood Reporter editor-in-chief Janice Min tweeted on Thursday. “Finally, finally, finally.”
No one knew? Even the world’s greatest actress can’t sell that line.