Kurtz: Ronan Farrow on Harvey Weinstein's trail
'MediaBuzz' host Howard Kurtz weighs in Ronan Farrow's bombshell New Yorker expose on Harvey Weinstein and on A-list actors speaking out against Weinstein only after he's been fired from his company.
For nearly six days, Hillary Clinton’s silence was deafening.
She finally spoke out against Harvey Weinstein yesterday, just as the allegations against him reached a more disturbing level. Clinton is "shocked and appalled by the revelations about Harvey Weinstein," and "the behavior described by women coming forward cannot be tolerated."
But it sure took time for Hillary, who had no problem denouncing Donald Trump’s treatment of women, to become shocked and appalled.
Weinstein, a major Democratic donor, had thrown a fundraiser for the former presidential candidate. There was a well-circulated picture of her laughing with him at some gathering. Other Democrats were giving back or donating contributions from the movie mogul.
But Clinton, as cautious as she was during the campaign, said nothing.
Barack Obama, also the beneficiary of a Weinstein fundraiser, spoke out last yesterday. He said in a statement: "Michelle and I have been disgusted by the recent reports about Harvey Weinstein. Any man who demeans and degrades women in such fashion needs to be condemned and held accountable, regardless of wealth or status."
I don’t blame anyone outside of his circles for being friendly with, or taking money from, a guy who was churning out Oscar-winning movies. But once the New York Times disclosed the sexual harassment allegations, and his own company suspended and then fired him, there was little reason to remain silent.
Barack Obama, who was also the beneficiary of a Weinstein fundraiser, has made no comment so far.
It looked like the story might be dying down, except for lingering questions about why the allegations remained an open secret and whether the Weinstein Co. can survive without its brand-name leader.
But yesterday brought a devastating piece in the New Yorker. It’s written by Ronan Farrow, Mia Farrow’s son, who might be seen as having a special interest in the subject. He washed out as an MSNBC daytime host, but was dogged in pursuing this 10-month investigation.
Two well-known actresses, Mira Sorvino and Rosanna Arquette, said they believe Weinstein dissuaded people from hiring them after they rejected his advances.
Here are the key passages:
"I was told by thirteen women that, between the nineteen-nineties and 2015, Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them, allegations that corroborate and overlap with the Times' revelations, and also include far more serious claims.
"Three women—among them Argento and a former aspiring actress named Lucia Evans—told me that Weinstein raped them, allegations that include Weinstein forcibly performing or receiving oral sex and forcing vaginal sex. Four women said that they experienced unwanted touching that could be classified as an assault …
"Sixteen former and current executives and assistants at Weinstein’s companies told me that they witnessed or had knowledge of unwanted sexual advances and touching at events associated with Weinstein’s films and in the workplace. They and others describe a pattern of professional meetings that were little more than thin pretexts for sexual advances on young actresses and models."
A Weinstein spokeswoman gave the magazine this statement:
“Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances. Mr. Weinstein obviously can’t speak to anonymous allegations, but with respect to any women who have made allegations on the record, Mr. Weinstein believes that all of these relationships were consensual. Mr. Weinstein has begun counseling, has listened to the community and is pursuing a better path. Mr. Weinstein is hoping that, if he makes enough progress, he will be given a second chance.”
What is truly chilling is an audiotape—part of a police sting—obtained by the magazine. An Italian model named Ambra Battilana, who says that Weinstein groped her breasts the day before, tries to fend him off as he tries to badger her into going into a room with him. Weinstein is heard describing the previous conduct as something he is "used to."
The case got a bit of press attention before the Manhattan district attorney declined to press charges. Listen to the tape and decide for yourself.
Here’s just part of what Sorvino said, describing a time when she worked with Weinstein on the movie "Mighty Aphrodite":
"He started massaging my shoulders, which made me very uncomfortable, and then tried to get more physical, sort of chasing me around."
With so many of Weinstein’s colleagues now saying they were aware of his behavior, it’s amazing that this stayed quiet for so long. And it’s a political problem for the Democrats.
The Times, meanwhile, has a new piece with allegations from Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, among others, that Weinstein harassed them.
Ronan Farrow concludes that "Weinstein and his legal and public-relations teams have conducted a decades-long campaign to suppress these stories." And it worked—until now.
Footnote: The Huffington Post reports that Farrow's investigation was in NBC's hands as recently as August, but passed on it, even though he is an NBC contributor. A network source told the website that the story then was not what was published in The New Yorker.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.