from the wanna-try-that-again,-harvey dept
Last week, the Hollywood Reporter broke the story that famed Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein (formerly of Miramax and more recently of the Weinstein Company — from which he was fired over the weekend, despite practically begging for his friends to support him) had seriously lawyered up, hiring three high profile lawyers: David Boies, Lisa Bloom and Charles Harder to deal with two apparent stories that were in the works — one from the NY Times and another from the New Yorker (two publications not known for backing down from threats) — about some fairly horrible alleged behavior by Weinstein towards young female actresses, employees and more.
A day later, the NY Times published its article about Harvey Weinstein and, damn, it’s quite an article. It details multiple cases of alleged sexual harassment by Weinstein against both employees and hopeful actresses — and includes claims of Weinstein having to pay off some of those individuals. The article was not based on a single source, but many sources, including one actress (Ashley Judd) willing to put her name behind the accusations (and just as we were completing this post, the New Yorker published its piece which appears to be more detailed and more damning, with more names and even more horrifying stories about Weinstein). And with the NY Times’ publication, much of the “legal team” leaped into action. Of course, if you’re not familiar with the three lawyers named above, it may help to do a quick review, before we dig in on the myriad (often contradictory) responses we’ve now seen from Weinstein and his legal team over the past few days.
Boies, of course, shows up everywhere these days, but often not for good reasons. You may recall him representing SCO in its quixotic attack on Linux. Or representing Oracle against Google in claiming that APIs can be copyrightable. Or representing Theranos, the now disgraced biotech firm that exaggerated what it could do. Or representing Sony Pictures when its emails were all leaked, to the point of sending a ridiculous threat letter to us for daring to report on those emails. Lisa Bloom’s only appearance here was when she was on the right side of the silly James Woods defamation case against an anonymous tweeter. Many found Bloom’s appearance as part of the team quite odd, since she’s built her reputation on representing victims of sexual harassment. She later claimed she was just advising Weinstein, rather than acting as his lawyer (hmm….) and then, over the weekend, she resigned from whatever it was that she was doing. However, the NY Times has a quite incredible article suggesting her initial response to the accusations was to effectively go after the women, by posting “photos of several of the accusers in very friendly poses with Harvey after his alleged misconduct.” Ick.
And, Charles Harder? What is there that needs to be said about Charles Harder? Oh, right, that he’s currently leading the legal team that’s suing us in a defamation suit that we’ve won (though he has since appealed).
Within hours of the article being published, Harder announced that Weinstein would be suing the NY Times for defamation.
“The New York Times published today a story that is saturated with false and defamatory statements about Harvey Weinstein,” he writes in an email to The Hollywood Reporter. “It relies on mostly hearsay accounts and a faulty report, apparently stolen from an employee personnel file, which has been debunked by nine different eyewitnesses. We sent the Times the facts and evidence, but they ignored it and rushed to publish. We are preparing the lawsuit now. All proceeds will be donated to women?s organizations.”
But here’s the thing: Weinstein himself seems to be admitting that many of the accusations are accurate. He’s quoted apologizing for his behavior in the initial NY Times article:
In a statement to The Times on Thursday afternoon, Mr. Weinstein said: ?I appreciate the way I?ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it. Though I?m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go.?
He added that he was working with therapists and planning to take a leave of absence to ?deal with this issue head on.?
That seems like an admission. The full statement is even more bizarre:
I came of age in the 60?s and 70?s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.
I have since learned it?s not an excuse, in the office – or out of it. To anyone. I realized some time ago that I needed to be a better person and my interactions with the people I work with have changed.
I appreciate the way I?ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it.
Though I?m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go. That is my commitment. My journey now will be to learn about myself and conquer my demons. Over the last year I’ve asked Lisa Bloom to tutor me and she’s put together a team of people. I’ve brought on therapists and I plan to take a leave of absence from my company and to deal with this issue head on. I so respect all women and regret what happened. I hope that my actions will speak louder than words and that one day we will all be able to earn their trust and sit down together with Lisa to learn more. Jay Z wrote in 4:44 “I’m not the man I thought I was and I better be that man for my children.” The same is true for me. I want a second chance in the community but I know I’ve got work to do to earn it. I have goals that are now priorities. Trust me, this isn’t an overnight process. I’ve been trying to do this for 10 years and this is a wake-up call. I cannot be more remorseful about the people I hurt and I plan to do right by all of them.
I am going to need a place to channel that anger so I’ve decided that I’m going to give the NRA my full attention. I hope Wayne LaPierre will enjoy his retirement party. I’m going to do it at the same place I had my Bar Mitzvah. I’m making a movie about our President, perhaps we can make it a joint retirement party. One year ago, I began organizing a $5 million foundation to give scholarships to women directors at USC. While this might seem coincidental, it has been in the works for a year. It will be named after my mom and I won’t disappoint her.
That whole statement is… weird. Others have covered the many problems with it, but it seems like a pretty clear admission. Given that, it’s pretty ridiculous to then claim you’re suing the NY Times. Under what theory? Well, according to Weinstein, because it didn’t give him enough time to respond:
?I mean every word of that apology,? he told TheWrap. ?The reason I am suing the New York Times is they didn?t give me enough time to respond.?
Um. What? First of all, he gave an entire statement to the NY Times. So he clearly had time to respond. Second, there’s no legal requirement that a news publication needs to give you “enough time to respond,” let alone any time to respond. That’s not how the press works.
In another interview, he told the NY Post that he’s suing because the NY Times wasn’t honest with him:
Weinstein said, ?What I am saying is that I bear responsibility for my actions, but the reason I am suing is because of the Times? inability to be honest with me, and their reckless reporting. They told me lies. They made assumptions.
?The Times had a deal with us that they would tell us about the people they had on the record in the story, so we could respond appropriately, but they didn?t live up to the bargain.
?The Times editors were so fearful they were going to be scooped by New York Magazine and they would lose the story, that they went ahead and posted the story filled with reckless reporting, and without checking all they had with me and my team.
Once again, Weinstein seems to be confused about how journalism works — and what legal requirements there are. Even as rich and powerful as Harvey Weinstein is, there is no legal requirement to give him as much time as he wants to respond. Indeed, his lawyer Bloom admits they had two days:
?Two days ago, after begging, they gave us a couple dozen allegations that spanned 30 years and a dozen countries. They said we have until 1 pm today. We said ?Why?? They never said.?
Again, giving two days actually seems kind of generous.
The whole thing seems like Weinstein is trying out any and all possible responses at once. Normally you select one: you deny and sue or you apologize or you try to make a quip and laugh off the accusation. Harvey seems to be doing all of this at once.
He even tried denial (and a quip) before the admission and the threat:
In a brief interview on Wednesday, Weinstein declined to comment on the charges.
“I’ve not been aware of this,” he said. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, honestly.”
Weinstein later issued a statement through a spokesperson, as did Bloom. ?The story sounds so good I want to buy the movie rights,? said Weinstein.
Of course, as the NY Times has pointed out, at no point has Weinstein said what is factually untrue in its reporting. And if you’re suing for defamation, that’s kind of the first thing you’re supposed to do. Meanwhile, it appears that other stories are starting to come out (and they keep coming) — including some fairly damning claims about attempts to cover up previous investigations. And, perhaps most troubling, a claim that the NY Times had this story a dozen years ago and was pressured into killing it. Of course, perhaps that’s the real reason behind the threat of the lawsuit — to try to scare off others from coming forward. All of the links in this paragraph suggest if that’s the theory, well, it’s not working. It’s also not clear that a lawsuit would be wise. Beyond the failure to give an actual legal reason for the lawsuit so far, as many people have pointed out, it’s unclear that Harvey would want to go through the discovery process in such a lawsuit should it get that far.
And, in the meantime, the NY Times has said that Weinstein “should publicly waive the NDAs in the women’s agreements so they can tell their stories.” If he fails to do so, that says a lot right there.
Still, in the end, it appears that Weinstein’s strategy here seems to be… to do all of the following, even if some parts contradict other parts:
- Deny with a quip (“I don’t know what you’re talking about, honestly.” “I want to buy the movie rights.”)
- Offer a weak excuse that’s not even a real excuse (“I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s”)
- Apologize (“the way I?ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain,” “I cannot be more remorseful about the people I hurt and I plan to do right by all of them.”)
- Threaten to sue (“the reason I am suing is because of the Times? inability to be honest with me, and their reckless reporting”)
- Claim the story is not accurate (“a story that is saturated with false and defamatory statements about Harvey Weinstein”)
- Say the real problem was that the paper didn’t live up to its word (“The Times had a deal with us”)
- Also claim that the problem was not enough time to respond (despite responding) (“The reason I am suing the New York Times is they didn?t give me enough time to respond.”)
- Deflect from being accused of using your power to bed powerless women by… talking about the NRA?!? (“I’m going to give the NRA my full attention.”)
- Insist that you’ve seen the light and are changing (“I want a second chance in the community but I know I’ve got work to do to earn it. I have goals that are now priorities. Trust me, this isn’t an overnight process. I’ve been trying to do this for 10 years and this is a wake-up call.”)
- Talk about how you’ve thrown money at womens’ issues, as if that makes this okay (“I began organizing a $5 million foundation to give scholarships to women directors at USC.”)
None of these seem particularly genuine at all — which perhaps explains the contradictory nature of many of them. Instead, it looks an awful lot like how people who are caught doing something bad act when they can’t come to terms with what they’ve done, and will thrash about wildly, trying on every possible response, hoping one of them gets them out of the situation. Who knows if an actual lawsuit will be filed, but of all the possible responses above, that one seems the least likely to end well.