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When noted feminist and civil rights attorney Lisa Bloom announced she was advising embattled movie mogul Harvey Weinstein amid sexual harassment allegations — which now include rape — accusations of hypocrisy from critics, and even some fans, were swift and severe.
After withdrawing from his legal team, Bloom spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about how her intentions in taking the case were misunderstood, what she’s learned from the backlash, when her mother Gloria Allred told press she wouldn’t hesitate to face her in court and why she likely won’t ever represent a high-powered man facing these kinds of accusations again. (After news broke Thursday that Amazon Studios vp Roy Price is being accused of harassment, Bloom made it clear she no longer represents him.)
Why did you take Harvey Weinstein as a client?
I saw this as a unique opportunity to change the way these stories go. In the case of Donald Trump, in the case of Bill O’Reilly, in the case of Bill Cosby, it’s always the same playbook. When the story comes out, attack the accuser, deny, deny, deny, and fight like hell.
Having represented a lot of those accusers, I know how damaging that is to them, how hurtful, how scary. It’s emotionally devastating. Because I had had that experience so many times with so many women I thought changing the response from the accused to immediately apologizing, expressing remorse, vowing to do better and never disrespecting the accusers would be a good thing for the victims.
It turns out I was wrong. It turns out nobody is ready to hear an apology when a shocking story comes out. I cannot, because of attorney-client privilege, get into why I withdrew, but I think I can talk about what I was trying to do. My part in this was getting that response. I thought that was a good thing for women in this case and hopefully in future cases, because of course there will be future cases.
They’re always going to want to fight a little bit. These guys become powerful because they’re fighters. If they would push aside the details and acknowledge a wrongdoing, that’s a powerful thing. What’s even more powerful are the stories of these accusers. I think they had to be heard first.
therapy, if they so desire, or, to be donated to a rape crisis center,” write Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, the Oscar-nominated filmmakers behind ‘The Hunting Ground.'”]
Were you surprised by the backlash?
Yes, very surprised. This has been a powerful learning experience for me. I have heard the anger with me. I have given it deep thought. I believe in listening to people when they tell me they’re upset with me. People who love me, who care about me, who feel disappointed in me, I have to listen to them and I am listening to them.
But, I also would say that some of the media stories about me have been completely false and that has fueled some of the anger. I wasn’t defending his behavior. I was advising him to immediately apologize and that’s what he did. Perhaps that was too fine of a distinction for people to appreciate.
I’m here in Houston with my client Just Brittany in a domestic violence case. What does she want? She says she would really like an apology so she can move on. We all approach life from the perspective of our life experiences. Mine is from working with women who would find an apology meaningful. I have learned from this that other people definitely don’t feel that way. They don’t feel it’s significant at all.
Do you feel like people have been pitting you against your mother (civil rights attorney Gloria Allred)?
Like when she publicly attacked me? Obviously, that doesn’t feel good. This is the kind of time, when you have a big public fall, when you find out who your friends are. Happily, for me, I have an astonishingly beautiful group of friends who have relentlessly been reaching out to me to make sure I’m okay. I really frankly don’t deserve them. I have that and, of course, I have a wonderful husband and two wonderful adult children and a wonderful foster son and they’ve all been there for me in a big way. You count your blessings.
How do you move forward and grow from this?
The public only sees a very small percentage of what I do. Most of what I do doesn’t have media significance. So people think all I had was the Weinstein matter and now it’s over. We have over 100 cases in our law firm. We have a lot going on and that’s going to continue. I’ve had many people reach out to me for representation over the past week in the kind of cases we typically do. People who think there’s some significant short-term or long-term damage to me don’t really understand my law practice. One of the great quotes I’ve always tried to live by is from the Dalai Lama: “When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.” I also feel if you don’t fail occasionally you’re not trying hard enough.
One of the things that has been very touching to me is how many people looked to me as a champion of women’s rights. I know I’ve been fighting these cases for a long time, but I didn’t understand the depth of the emotion that people felt about it and therefore the betrayal they felt when they saw me advising Harvey Weinstein. Part of the problem here is I always get a lot of hate. So, initially, I just thought “this is typical,” but after a while I realized it was different. I’m genuinely moved that people felt that way and sorry that they felt hurt.
Would you consider doing something outside of the box like this again?
What is life if you don’t try different things now and then? If you mean representing a high-profile guy accused of sexual harassment, I think the answer would be no. I was convinced that [Weinstein] was genuinely contrite and wanted to change. People were so shocked by the allegations that the felt the apology was hollow, that he had to say that. He didn’t have to. The others didn’t. Bill O’Reilly is still digging up dirt on one of my accusers, Perquita Burgess.
For all of the deplorable things that Harvey has done, he’s not doing that. I think it’s very hard to hold in our minds two competing concepts. One: He did horrible things. Two: He’s handling things the right way now. Can we hold both of those concepts in our minds? For many people the answer is no.
I’ve thought about our culture of anger and outrage and hate and what have I done to be a part of that in the past, and how can I not be a part of that going forward. I’ve thought about what I’ve done in this case and the things that I’ve said that were hurtful to people. We’re all learning and growing. Jesse Jackson once said, “God is not finished with me yet.” I think that’s true for all of us. I’m still fighting every day sexual harassment cases on behalf of women — including 9 women who were assaulted in Ubers — and many, many cases of race discrimination. I know that I’m not defined by one case.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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