Weinstein, accused by dozens, specifically disputes Nyong'o's harassment claims

  • Amy B Wang
  • The Washington Post
10:34 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017 Atlanta News

It's been little more than three weeks since a pair of investigative reports, first from the New York Times and then from the New Yorker, exposed decades of sexual harassment and assault claims against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

In the wake of those stories, Weinstein issued a long, scattered statement in which he begged for "a second chance in the community," referenced Jay-Z lyrics and declared he would take on the National Rifle Association.

"I appreciate the way I've behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it," he said in his Oct. 5 statement. "Though I'm trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go."

Soon after, Weinstein reportedly flew to Arizona to check into a sex-addiction rehabilitation center. Since then, more than 40 women have come forward to accuse the disgraced film producer of grossly inappropriate behavior. Through them all, Weinstein - or at least his representatives - mostly stayed quiet. Aside from an Oct. 5 interview with the New York Post, in which Weinstein insinuated that Ashley Judd had leveled accusations against him because she was "going through a tough time right now," his team has hewed to generic rebuttals that do not name the accusers.

"Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein," read one such statement to CNN, after Cara Delevingne joined the list of Weinstein accusers. "Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances."

That changed this week. On Thursday, in an op-ed for the New York Times, the Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o detailed a pattern of predatory behavior Weinstein had directed at her, starting when she was still a student at the Yale School of Drama. One day, she said, Weinstein invited her to his home in Westport, Connecticut, ostensibly to screen a film with his family; before the movie ended, he insisted she leave the room with him.

"Harvey led me into a bedroom - his bedroom - and announced that he wanted to give me a massage. I thought he was joking at first. He was not," Nyong'o wrote. "For the first time since I met him, I felt unsafe."

What followed, Nyong'o said, was encounters over the next several years in which Nyong'o continued to assert her boundaries, only to have them pushed or disregarded by Weinstein. It culminated in a meal in New York in which Weinstein propositioned her - and then, when she turned him down, hinted that her acting career would suffer, she wrote.

"I share all of this now because I know now what I did not know then. I was part of a growing community of women who were secretly dealing with harassment by Harvey Weinstein" Nyong'o wrote. "But I also did not know that there was a world in which anybody would care about my experience with him. . . . He was one of the first people I met in the industry, and he told me, 'This is the way it is.' And wherever I looked, everyone seemed to be bracing themselves and dealing with him, unchallenged."

For unknown reasons, Weinstein issued a more specific statement in response to Nyong'o's essay, calling her out by her (first) name and stating - as she had already done in her New York Times piece - that she was the one who invited him to New York to see her Broadway show.

"Mr. Weinstein has a different recollection of the events, but believes Lupita is a brilliant actress and a major force for the industry," a representative for Weinstein told E! News in a statement. "Last year, she sent a personal invitation to Mr. Weinstein to see her in her Broadway show Eclipsed."

The second sentence of the statement has drawn outrage from people who accused Weinstein of victim-blaming. But the statement as a whole has raised eyebrows from many who have suggested there was a racial element to singling Nyong'o out, while remaining silent or issuing generic denials regarding his more than 40 other accusers. Nyong'o is, so far, the only black woman to have accused Weinstein of inappropriate sexual harassment.

Many of those accusing Weinstein of racism, on top of everything else, failed to mention he had also specifically refuted claims by Ashley Judd, in the early days of the ever-growing controversy. Still, they asked: Why had Weinstein not said anything specifically about Gwyneth Paltrow after she accused him of making advances on her in a Beverly Hills hotel room under the guise of a work meeting? Or after Angelina Jolie alleged she had "had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth" and vowed never to work with him again? Or after TV journalist Lauren Sivan recalled Weinstein had once masturbated into a potted plant in front of her at a New York restaurant and club, an account that was later corroborated by the club owner?

A representative for Weinstein did not immediately respond to requests for further comment Saturday, including questions about which events Weinstein had "a different recollection of" in his statement.

Since the scandal has exploded, Weinstein has been fired from the Weinstein Co., which he co-founded. The allegations and public discussion of Weinstein's behavior have also prompted scores of people outside Hollywood circles to share their own experiences with sexual harassment and assault on social media using the now-viral hashtag #MeToo.

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