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Melanie Kohler says she is willing to tell her story about Brett Ratner in court if it comes to that.
Speaking on Good Morning America, the Hawaii native who had accused the filmmaker of rape in a since-deleted Facebook post said, “If I have to risk my life and what I’ve worked so hard for in my life in Hawaii to be the voice that helps other women come forward, then I am prepared to do that.”
More than a week before the Los Angeles Times published an explosive report from six women, including actresses Olivia Munn and Natasha Henstridge, claiming they were sexually assaulted or harassed by Ratner, Kohler claimed in an Oct. 20 Facebook post that the Hollywood director-producer “was a rapist on at least one night in Hollywood about 12 years ago” and “preyed on me as a drunk girl [and] forced himself upon me.” She later deleted the post.
During a Wednesday sit-down with ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos, where she was accompanied by her lawyer, Kohler explained why.
“I posted on Facebook and was just starting to feel healing about it all, and about an hour and a half after I posted, my cell phone rang,” she said. Ratner’s lawyer, Marty Singer, told her that if she didn’t remove the post, he had authorization from Ratner to sue her for defamation, she said. “I was scared and shocked.”
Correcting what she had said in her initial post about not telling anyone about the alleged incident, Kohler said her best friend did recall her relaying the experience. “It’s so embarrassing. It’s so humiliating. It’s not something that you ever want to relive again and it just felt like there was nothing that I could do,” she explained. “I didn’t think the police could help me. I didn’t know if anyone would be willing to go up against someone so powerful and it just was easier for me to not relive it.”
Ratner then filed a complaint in Hawaii federal court denying Kohler’s allegations and categorizing the social media post as libel per se. His lawyer, Eric Seitz, argued that the statements are entirely false, fabricated and fictional and that Kohler published them maliciously. Ratner claims to have suffered emotional distress, worry, anger and anxiety and that his personal and professional reputations have been injured.
Kohler’s lawyer said she felt the lawsuit was not about her client, but was instead filed by Singer and Ratner to “send a message to other women” and deter them from speaking out. “We’re here to send a very strong message that it’s not going to stop Melanie from speaking and it’s not going to stop other women from speaking,” said attorney Robbie Kaplan, who added that they are prepared to call “at least three dozen witnesses” and have the resources to fight back if the case proceeds. Amy Kaufman, the co-writer of the L.A. Times report, said on Twitter that the paper is investigating claims from over 45 women.
Speaking out now because she “can’t get through the day without being reminded of it,” Kohler said she wants women to feel comfortable speaking out about a person who is “more powerful than you, has more money than you and when everything feels stacked against you.”
In response to the segment, Singer told GMA in a statement, “Brett Ratner vehemently denies the outrageous derogatory allegations that have been reported about him, and we are confident that his name will be cleared once the current media frenzy dies down and people can objectively evaluate the nature of these claims.”
In response to Kaplan specifically, Singer added, “It is nonsense that the defamation lawsuit filed against Ms. Kohler is a tactic of ‘trying to silence women.’ No such thing is occurring.”
In light of the allegations that have come to light against Ratner, Warner Bros., where Ratner had a first-look deal, severed ties with the producer.
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