Kater Gordon, a former writer on Mad Men, is accusing the show's creator Matthew Weiner of sexual harassment.
Gordon, who won an Emmy for her writing on the AMC series, alleges that while working together late one night on Mad Men, Weiner told her that she owed it to him to let him see her naked. A year later, she was let go from the critically acclaimed drama — and hasn’t worked in the industry since.
“I had the Emmy, but instead of being able to use that as a launch pad for the rest of my career, it became an anchor because I felt I had to answer to speculative stories in the press,” Gordon told website The Information, which first broke the news. “I eventually walked away instead of fighting back.”
In response, Weiner’s rep released the following statement to the publication: “Mr. Weiner spent eight to ten hours a day writing dialogue aloud with Miss Gordon, who started on Mad Men as his writers assistant. He does not remember saying this comment nor does it reflect a comment he would say to any colleague. During the nine years he was showrunner on Mad Men, Mr. Weiner had a predominantly female driven writers room. He has long believed in and implemented an egalitarian working environment including the highest levels of production and writing based on mutual respect for all."
As a young writer in 2007, Gordon started out as Weiner’s personal assistant. Less than a year in, she was promoted to be the show's writers' assistant. In the role, she would transcribe Weiner's writing, which he famously dictates, in addition to researching for the writers and compiling outlines of scripts — but she was also encourage to pitch ideas, she said. “I felt excited to be able to be so close to making — what I thought at the time — was such a great show. And he championed me. It was extremely satisfying,” Gordon said. According to The Information, three people who worked on the show confirmed that Weiner “respected Gordon tremendously” and would ask her opinion on storylines in the second season.
Not long after, Weiner offered her the opportunity to co-write that season finale with him, a shot he'd given to his previous writers' assistants. While they wrote their sections separately, they revised them together. One night near the end of the writing process, Gordon was working late with Weiner in the production office when he allegedly made the inappropriate remark. “He told me that I owed it to him to let him see me naked,” she said, adding that she tried to brush the comment off. The pair continued to work together that night to finish writing the episode.
According to The Information, Gordon has shared her story with a number of people over the years, several of whom confirmed what she told them to publication — but she didn't report the comment out of fear that she'd lose her job. “It felt like a lose-lose situation,” Gordon said of her decision to not confront the showrunner. She felt “threatened and devalued” but also thought that saying something about the incident would end her career. Gordon also wanted the credit on the episode they were writing together to help her get another gig. “I thought, ‘I can’t do anything to jeopardize.’ I need this credit. I saw no value to speaking out,” she said. “So I did what I thought women were supposed to do.”
As Weiner had promised, the creator brought Gordon onto the series as a staff writer for the third season, handing her two episodes. But another longtime staff writer on the series told The Information that Gordon was "subdued" and it was "obvious something had changed." The person, speaking on the condition of anonymity, added: “I could see her confidence was shaken.” Despite attempts to forget about the inappropriate remark, Gordon struggled to move past it. “I did my best to play along but couldn’t divorce him from the comment, and I lost respect," she said. "I couldn’t in good conscious support him the way I did the previous year.”
Together, Weiner and Gordon won an Emmy in September 2009 for the episode they penned together. At first, Gordon said she was "elated" but that as the night wore on, she began to feel "empty," leaving the afterparty early. Just weeks later, Weiner called to let Gordon know that he wouldn't be renewing her contract for the upcoming fourth season. When Gordon asked why, she claims that Weiner began telling her about all the ways she had "fallen short." She added, “He told me I was terrible at everything, from my work in the writers room to on set.”
Afterwards, Gordon lost her desire to write and moved to Palo Alto, California, where she's now forming a nonprofit to help victims of sexual harassment called Modern Alliance that aims to connect disparate organizations working to eradicate the behavior. Though she's tried her best to avoid the issue since her departure from Hollywood — even requesting that a mention of her Emmy win for Mad Men be removed from her bio — she was motivated to do something about it when she read the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, whose bully reputation and reported temper reminded her of Weiner. Said Gordon, “I spent a couple days feeling down and feeling upset and aimless. And then I got inspired.”