Gavin Polone on Harvey Weinstein and Who's to Blame: "Accomplices Must Be Exposed"
"It is inane to wallow in incredulity about what Harvey and others did and then do nothing. Now is time to act," writes the producer and THR contributor, who lists Disney, NBC News, the New York Post and Bob Weinstein among those who need to be questioned.
In December 2014, when I called out journalists in the pages of this magazine to investigate a certain unnamed important film executive for his alleged repeated sexual assaults, I received many calls and e-messages asking about the perpetrator. “It’s Harvey, isn’t it?” was what I most often I heard. Others would ask, “Who are you talking about?” to which I would respond “Who do you think?” and then most of them would respond, “Well, Harvey, I guess.” When I offered the name Harvey Weinstein to those who claimed to really not know, the response was either, “Oh, I should have said that,” or “Of course!” I don’t remember anyone saying, “Are you sure? ‘Cause that doesn’t make sense to me.” The day that column came out, I asked exactly one actress that I happened to encounter, half-jokingly, if she had ever been assaulted by Weinstein. Surprisingly, she proceeded to tell me a story of just such an assault and later told me that she had a friend who had also been violated by Weinstein, only much more gravely than she.
Most of those to whom I spoke around the time that column was published had never met Weinstein, or, if they had, didn’t know him well. I don’t know the man either. And yet, we all heard the stories of his ugly conduct. And if we heard, one would have to believe that almost all of his associates, friends and intimates also heard. And if they knew and ignored such consistent and extreme actions, or worse yet, helped to protect Weinstein by facilitating settlements or killing news stories relating to his activity, thus shielding him from prosecution and ejection from this industry, then they are absolutely complicit.
Herein can be found the greater question: Why would all of these liberal, pro-women, heal-the-baying, ice-bucket-dumping, Tesla-right-up-to-the-private-jet-driving, private-school-fundraising, Democratic party-donation-bundling, compassionate people play a part in covering up for these monstrous crimes? Self-interest, obviously. They wanted to continue to benefit from Weinstein’s influence in the business; or to avoid reprisal from a legendarily hot-tempered man; or both.
As more and more stories of Weinstein’s alleged crimes are uncovered, it is important that they not obscure the fact that others, possibly many others, abetted, through their actions or inactions, Harvey’s spree of depravity. Similarly, if we really want to end this widespread abuse, we cannot be satisfied with just vilifying the direct perpetrator. His accomplices must be exposed. Internal corporate inquiries and external journalistic investigations need to be done to find out the whos and hows of these cover-ups surrounding this scandal. The following is my list of where the investigation of All of Harvey’s Men should begin:
1) Bob Weinstein. The Weinstein Co. board of directors took action to fire Harvey, leaving his brother Bob and company president David Glasser in charge. During the decades that Bob was Harvey’s partner in their companies, is it conceivable that he didn’t participate in the settlements that were paid to Harvey’s victims? The board, including Bob, has said the allegations against Harvey came as an “utter surprise.” If I and many others knew, is it possible that Bob didn’t? Yes, it is possible. I’d say the likelihood is about equal to that of Bill Cosby’s 50-plus accusers all being liars. The board, which I suspect did know, must hire truly independent outside counsel to dig through and reveal to the public any evidence of continued concealment of the actions in question by Bob Weinstein and others at the company. And it needs to come to light if settlements were paid to victims by the company, and not Harvey personally, with pre-tax dollars. That would mean that you and I, as fellow taxpayers, helped to fund Harvey’s escape from true justice.
2) The Walt Disney Company. How much malfeasance took place during the 12 years starting in 1993 that Disney owned Miramax, the Weinsteins’ first company? Clearly, some of the testimony coming out from various actresses, like Gwyneth Paltrow and Ashley Judd, can be connected to specific movies, so it is probable he was preying on many women during that time frame. Disney claims that Miramax had a lot of autonomy, but if any victims retained a lawyer to pursue a settlement, as Rose McGowan may have done (she did Scream with them in 1996 and is reported to have received a settlement), they likely would have threatened to file suit against not only Harvey Weinstein personally but also the company, including the parent company. That’s how these things work. Therefore, I can’t imagine that someone at Disney — if not Michael Eisner, the CEO at the time — had not been informed. Even if Eisner was not in the loop, as he maintains, I would bet that some executive(s) were and there are files in a warehouse or on a server that would be illuminative.
3) The New York District Attorney’s office. According to Ronan Farrow’s piece in The New Yorker, NYPD investigators seemingly had more than enough evidence to prosecute in the case of Weinstein’s alleged assault of Ambra Gutierrez. Anyone listening to the audio recording Farrow provided of Weinstein imploring Gutierrez to enter his hotel room, and admitting that he touched her breast, would agree. Yet, the DA declined to prosecute. What went into this decision? David Boies, one of Weinstein’s lawyers, has been a major contributor to DA Cyrus Vance, Jr.. Was Vance directly involved in determining that Harvey be let off the hook? Did anyone from the mayor’s office, or any other elected official who might have received campaign donations from the prodigious political donor, weigh in?
4) NBC News. Ironically, the network that brought us To Catch a Predator let this predator go. NBC News president Noah Oppenheim has stated that they did not move forward with this story when Farrow was working on it for them because he didn’t have “the elements [they] needed to air it” and that Farrow “greatly expanded the scope of his reporting” after taking the story to The New Yorker. I was in touch with Farrow throughout the period he was working on this epic project and can say that Oppenheim’s statement does not comport with what I know. The last time that I spoke to Farrow while he was still working on this for NBC was around mid-August. At that time, he had an overwhelming amount of evidence backing his report, including many recorded interviews with women both fully on camera and also recorded in shadow. If the fact that some women Farrow interviewed didn’t want their identity revealed invalidated this story for NBC, then it also would have done so to every investigation of the mafia or South American drug cartels that I’ve ever seen. From what I can tell, Ronan had more hard evidence in August than The New York Times had for the article they published on Oct. 6.
Why Oppenheim really did not air this story, I’m not sure. I would conjecture it was the weight of the lawsuits that Weinstein may have threatened against NBC and other retribution that could be waged against him personally, either through tabloid attacks or the possibility that Weinstein could hinder Oppenheim’s side-career as a screenwriter (NBC News' response is below). I would like to know if Oppenheim spoke with Weinstein when the two sat at the same table at the Time 100 Gala in late April, or at any other time, while Farrow was working for NBC on this story.
5) The New York Post. In Farrow’s article, and others I’ve read, it is alleged that Weinstein would use The Post to slag those who contended with him. This accusation seems to be backed up by the fact that after Ambra Gutierrez filed a complaint with the police against Weinstein on March 27, 2015, The Post published two articles, on March 31 and April 3, undermining her credibility by making her look like a lying opportunist. Those articles contained a lot of reporting on Gutierrez’s past, with interviews from unnamed sources. Did The Post actually do all of that investigating on their own or was it handed to them by a private investigator working for Weinstein? It is pretty clear that Harvey thought of The Post as his personal bulletin board, since he “spoke exclusively” to Page Six on the day the Times story about him broke. According to The Post, Weinstein “continues to frantically call Page Six from rehab.”
6) The New York Times. I cringe to add The Paper of Record to this rogues gallery, as it was they who first named Weinstein a sexual predator when others did not have the integrity and backbone to do so. But there is an allegation by The Wrap’s Sharon Waxman that the Times killed a story about Weinstein’s depravity back in 2004, ostensibly due to pressure not only from His Horribleness but also from major movie stars. The Times has said that editors who worked with Waxman on this did not remember it the same way as she and that Waxman did not offer the necessary corroboration for them to run her version of the article. I will say that she’s had eight years to publish her account on The Wrap but chose not to, which I can only believe was due to Waxman’s wanting advertising from The Weinstein Co. or that she feared being sued without the Times at her back. Still, the consequences of Waxman’s report not running 13 years ago are all too clear, given what we now know. The truth surrounding this allegation must be made known in detail.
Bob has called his brother “a very sick man,” and on this we can agree. But the devastation that resulted from Harvey’s sick actions probably would have been quite limited if not for the many collaborators who may have helped to quietly settle these cases, shielding him from public scrutiny, and allowing him to continue committing crimes. Had a major news service exposed Harvey in 1995 or 2004; or had Bob or another highly placed executive at their company said early on during this campaign of abuse against women, “No more, I’m going to expose this,” then some, or many, others that fell into Harvey’s trap would have certainly been spared their sufferings.
Should it turn out, after an impartial and open investigation, that Brother Bob did know about the years of misconduct at both The Weinstein Co. and Miramax and helped to clean up Harvey’s messes, then whoever ends up controlling the company needs to grab Bob by the pussy and yank him out of there. The same can be said of any other executives at Weinstein companies that participated in protecting Harvey. Equally for the New York DA’s office, or the news agencies that killed stories about Harvey or helped to promote fake news about his victims and thereby served to discredit and distract from the charges against this ogre. And if any of them will not open their vault of knowledge on this topic, then it is on the public press to take charge and do what they do best; to do as Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey at The New York Times and Farrow, eventually, at The New Yorker did: to manifest the wrong doing and how it was done.
Finally, there must to be a collective conversation on why rich men have the ability to be so prolific in their offenses toward women. Though it is difficult to deter an unhinged killer from exercising his will, we can certainly reduce the resulting body count by not allowing him automatic weapons. Similarly, we could limit the damage caused by the Cosbys, Aileses and Weinsteins in restraining their ability to silence their victims. In that regard, the confidentiality agreements many of these women, like McGowan, had to sign in return for the compensation they deserved functioned as bump stocks, increasing the casualty count. They forced silence when what was needed were shouts of how this dangerous man had to be stopped!
Agreements to keep most secrets are fine but not when it comes to acts of violence. Forcing oneself sexually on another person is an act of violence. If wealthy offenders can just pay some money and make their offenses hidden, then society is creating a rate card for the different atrocities from which these perverts may choose with impunity. The law needs to change so no one can be restrained from telling whomever they want that they have been abused; especially the police, the press or those who could possibly be the next victims.
It is inane to wallow in incredulity about what Harvey Weinstein and others did and then do nothing. Now is time to act.
Oct. 16, 4:20 pm. Update: After the publication of this column, an NBC News rep responded with this statement: "NBC News emphatically disputes the characterizations in this column. As Oppenheim said last week in comments that were released publicly, the notion that we would try to cover for a powerful person is deeply offensive to all of us. And, as has been previously stated on the record, Oppenheim has never had any relationship with Weinstein, business or personal."
Gavin Polone is a producer and a frequent contributor to The Hollywood Reporter. This story appears in the Oct. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.