Harvey Weinstein said on Thursday he will take a leave of absence in light of an explosive report by The New York Times that he disputes, alleging decades of sexual harassment against female employees and talent.
“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,” Weinstein said in a statement to the paper. “I so respect all women and regret what happened.”
While The Weinstein Company had not replied at time of writing to elaborate on the precise timing and nature of any leave and what action the board may take, it emerged the mogul is suing The New York Times.
Weinstein’s attorney Charles Harder said the article was “saturated with false and defamatory statements”. Harder represented Hulk Hogan in his lawsuit against the now defunct site Gawker.
”The New York Times published today a story that is saturated with false and defamatory statements about Harvey Weinstein,” the statement read. ”It relies on mostly hearsay accounts and a faulty report, apparently stolen from an employee personnel file, which has been debunked by 9 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.”
Lisa Bloom, another Weinstein lawyer, said in a statement her client denied many of the accusations as “patently false.” Bloom described Weinstein as “an old dinosaur learning new ways” and said he had instructed her to review the company’s policies and practices towards women in the workplace and she would recommend gender equality and a climate of zero tolerance for workplace misconduct.
Thursday’s report by The New York Times contains a number of claims by various women about inappropriate behavior by Weinstein that allegedly spans several decades.
Actress Ashley Judd talked about an encounter with Weinstein at the Peninsular Hotel in Beverly Hills 20 years ago when she said what she expected to be a breakfast meeting turned into an encounter in the executive’s hotel room where he appeared in a bathrobe and offered her a massage and asked if she would watch him take a shower.
Judd, who first referred to the incident in another interview two years ago and declined to name the executive, faced a quandary as a young actress seeking to make her way in Hollywood who did not wishing to alienate one of the industry’s most powerful and brilliant executives.
Young former employees of Weinstein said they faced similar dilemmas in their careers working with the mogul and spoke of a climate of loneliness and private humiliation. Former employee Lauren O’Connor wrote a letter to senior executives at the company in which she referred to “a toxic environment for women at this company.”
Among other things, the article mentions actress Rose McGown, and refers to Italian model Ambra Battilana, who previously claimed Weinstein sexually assaulted her in his Tribeca office in 2015. The Manhattan district attorney’s office did not bring charges in that case.
It is understood The New Yorker is preparing an article about Weinstein that will be in a similar vein.
Statement by Harvey Weinstein to The New York Times
In a statement issued to The New York Times, Weinstein said: “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 [NRA executive vice-president] 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.”
Statement by attorney Lisa Bloom
Bloom issued a statement that read: “Harvey Weinstein and I have had many wide ranging conversations over the last year about rumors and allegations against him. He denies many of the accusations as patently false. Nevertheless, I have explained to him that due to the power difference between a major studio head like him and most others in the industry, whatever his motives, some of his words and behaviors can be perceived as inappropriate, even intimidating.
“As a women’s rights advocate, I have been blunt with Harvey and he has listened to me. I have told him that times have changed, it is 2017, and he needs to evolve to a higher standard. I have found Harvey to be refreshingly candid and receptive to my message. He has acknowledged mistakes he has made. He is reading books and going to therapy. He is an old dinosaur learning new ways. He wants to reach out to any of the women who may have issues with him to talk to them in a respectful, peaceful way, with me present if that is acceptable to them. He has been working on a major foundation with USC with one of the largest grants for female directors, which started well over a year ago. And as we work together on a project bringing my book to the screen, he has always been respectful toward me.
“He is deeply bothered by his some of his emotional responses. He has been working on his temper for over ten years and is chagrined the issue still plagues him. He recognizes he needs time off to focus on this issue and has much to learn. He wants to reach out to teachers with expertise in this area.
“Harvey is not going to demean or attack any of the women making accusations against him, although he does dispute many of the allegations. Instead, he is going to use this as a painful learning experience to grow into a better man. I will continue to work with him personally for as long as it takes.
“In addition, Harvey has asked me to do a comprehensive review of his company’s policies and practices regarding women in the workplace. I will make recommendations to ensure that gender equality and zero tolerance for workplace misconduct aren’t just goals, but a reality.”