9:35pm PT by Bryn Elise Sandberg
Matthew Weiner Tells Jenji Kohan Sexual Harassment Claim Against Him "Is Not True"
Matthew Weiner is publicly denying the sexual harassment allegation levied against him.
At a event Friday in Los Angeles promoting the Mad Men creator's debut book Heather, the Totality, Orange Is the New Black showrunner Jenji Kohan, who was moderating, started off the conversation by saying that while Weiner ought to be taking a victory lap, he’s instead having to defend himself against a harassment accusation from a former writer on his show. Kater Gordon, an assistant-turned-writer, told The Information on Nov. 9 that the Mad Men creator told her that she owed it to him to see her naked.
Kohan gave Weiner the chance to comment on the claim, and the high-profile showrunner used it as an opportunity to shoot down the accusation. “I will just say what I’ve said: The allegation is not true,” he told the few dozen audience members packed into Chevalier’s Books in Larchmont, the last stop on his book tour. Weiner then addressed the larger issue of sexual harassment in the workplace, emphasizing that "this is a very important topic and a topic that has been an obsession of mine, in my work and in my life — and for, like, 92 hours of the show. We wanted people to be having this conversation and it’s great that we’re having it. It’s a very serious issue.”
When Kohan followed up by asking Weiner why someone might make up such a claim, Weiner responded: “I don’t want to speak to someone else’s character.” He then went on to reflect on how he had handled his time in charge of the AMC drama. “I will say this, I have hired dozens of women over the years and dozens of people, and I am a demanding boss. Especially in the early years, it was very hard to do it. I had a lot of stress — and you know this — it’s very lonely,” he said to Kohan, who runs her own Netflix series. “I got better at it, for sure.”
Weiner continued to mull his time on Mad Men, pondering how he might do things differently now. “When I think back on it, you know, if I had to do it [again] — letting people go and being mad about having to rewrite everything. ... You’re just angry a lot of the time, but you want the show to be great and it’s kind of what you do," he said. "So I guess if I could do it over again, I would do it differently. The person I am now would definitely do it different.” Weiner concluded by thanking the people with whom he currently works, and those who have worked with him over the years, for their support through this time. “They know the kind of person that I am," he said.
Earlier on Friday, veteran TV writer-producer and Mad Men alum Marti Noxon — who is Kohan's sister-in-law — backed Gordon’s claims on Twitter. “I believe her. I was at work with her the day after what she described transpired. I remember clearly how shaken and subdued Kater was — and continued to be from that day on," Noxon wrote. "Responding to her statement, Matt claimed he would never make that kind of comment to a colleague. But anyone with an even cursory knowledge of the show Mad Men could imagine that very line coming from the mouth of Pete Campbell." She added that while Weiner is "devilishly clever and witty," he is also " an 'emotional terrorist' who will badger, seduce and even tantrum in an attempt to get his needs met." Noxon's remarks were never brought up at the book event.
Gordon's accusation also rocked Weiner's book tour. Roughly a third of the 11 stops were outright canceled — including events in Seattle, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles — with bookstores and other venues determining that it wouldn't be appropriate to go through with the previously scheduled events. One interviewer, literary radio show host David Naimon, pulled out, noting that "once the news broke, I knew I couldn't do the interview and pretend these allegations didn't exist — not when Weiner's book, like his show, dramatizes certain masculine psychologies within a larger climate of sexism."