Harry Knowles Sex-Assault Allegations Prompt Staff Exodus at Ain't It Cool News

Harry Knowles and Peter Jackson
Gary Miller/FilmMagic

Peter Jackson and Knowles at a December screening of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in Austin.

"I cannot, in good conscience, continue to contribute to the brand I helped build over the last 20 years," says one longtime writer.

Several writers have resigned from the influential movie site Ain't It Cool News (AICN) after a woman came forward to accuse that site's 45-year-old founder, Harry Knowles, of having sexually assaulted her nearly two decades ago.

In a statement posted Monday to Twitter, Steve Prokopy, a Chicago-based writer who signs his reviews "Capone," called the choice to leave the site "a remarkably easy decision to make."

"I sincerely hope that the women impacted by any of these incidents have received all the support and strength they need to recover and heal," Prokopy said.

Eric Vespe, who wrote for decades as "Quint" on the site (a nod to the shark hunter character from Jaws), has also stepped down.

"Given the recent allegations against Harry Knowles of behavior impossible to defend, I cannot, in good conscience, continue to contribute to the brand I helped build over the last 20 years," Vespe said in a statement

A third AICN writer, who goes by the pen name "Horrorella," has also quit the site. 

As first reported by IndieWire, the victim, Jasmine Baker, said that Knowles had "groped me, opportunistically, on more than one occasion." Knowles has "categorically" denied the claims.

The Austin-based Knowles was a regular in a movie scene that revolved around the Alamo Drafthouse movie theater chain founded by Tim and Karrie League in 1997. Knowles and the Leagues co-founded the Fantastic Fest festival in 2005 — many years after Baker, a Drafthouse employee from 2003 to 2007, told the Leagues about Knowles' alleged sex assault.

"Their suggestion was, 'Just avoid him,'" Baker recalls.

The claims come at a critical time for Drafthouse, after a public-relations fiasco in which it was revealed that another employee, Devin Faraci, had been quietly rehired by Tim League to write website copy just 11 months after a woman accused him of having forcibly put his hands down her pants on a dance floor.

The Drafthouse allegations come less than a month after Cinefamily, a similar independent film venue based in Los Angeles, was forced to suspend operations after a pattern of sexual harassment came to light, leading to the exit of two of its top executives, Hadrian Belove and Shadie Elnashai.

Founded by Knowles in 1996, AICN, a lively mixture of effusive fanboy reviews and Hollywood news and gossip, was one of the first film websites to fully harness the power of the internet to shape public and industry opinion.

At its peak in the early 2000s, it was grossing $700,000 annually — but the site failed to keep up with the times and by 2012, that had dipped to the low six-figures.