Most people know Harvey Weinstein as an Oscar-studded Hollywood mogul, admired by pop culture enthusiasts and liberal intellectuals alike for his ability to nurture small films to box office and critical success. This Thursday reintroduced him to the public in a new, creepy light as a New York Times article revealed a decades-long history of suppressed sexual harassment allegations against him. The report, compiled from interviews with female actors and company employees, details a pattern of extreme inappropriate behavior, including calling women to his private hotel rooms under professional pretenses only to corner them with aggressive propositions, threatening to stifle their careers if they refuse.
The image of a pervy, erratic, and power-hungry Weinstein was barely perturbed by a defensive interview he gave to Page Six, in which he lambasted the Times for “reckless reporting” and for publishing the story without consulting him because they were afraid “to be scooped by New York Magazine.” Nonetheless, Weinstein trusted the Times to print his official statement on the matter, in which he strikes the tone of a different role: Weinstein the confessant.
PDF of Weinstein’s statement on The New York Times‘ website.
This Weinstein is the author of a rambling page of apologies and restitutive promises, which the Times has uploaded to its website intact, in all its Calibri-fonted glory. In the statement, Weinstein explains that his conduct was par for the course of “the culture” of the “60’s and 70’s [sic], when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different.” After some scolding, it seems, he has realized that his actions are unacceptable. “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 writes, adding “I so respect all women and regret what happened.”
Steps that he has taken towards a more virtuous path include taking “a leave of absence from my company” and assembling a team of therapists and lawyers, including Lisa Bloom, the prominent feminist attorney who litigated against Bill O’Reilly and Bill Cosby and is now representing Weinstein (did I mention they have a film deal?). He also hopes to “channel that anger” into taking down Trump and the National Rifle Association “at the same place I had my Bar Mitzvah,” and has founded a scholarship for women directors at the University of Southern California. Weinstein may have been an oppressor of women, but with a little training, he assures us, he can be a savior for them and for us all.
Lisa Bloom, right, with her client Janice Dickenson, for whom she advocated against Bill Cosby.
The statement is obviously flawed: even the casual sexism permitted under older codes of workplace conduct can’t account for “appearing nearly or fully naked in front of [female employees], requiring them to be present while he bathed or repeatedly asking for a massage or initiating one himself,” as the New York Times reported. Weinstein’s reference to “channel[ling] his anger] is further evidence that he is trying to cover his egregious sexual misdeeds with his slightly less egregious reputation for a bad temper.
Not once does he give serious attention and credence to the grave allegations against him—including those detailed in a 2015 memo by his colleague Lauren O’Connor, which he has repeatedly denied—or show any inclination to give up the enormous power he wields not only over women, but also many others, as an ultra-rich white man.
The rushed and unedited style of his statement speaks to a Trump-like delusion that with money, the right associations, and quick display of masculine bravado, any bad business move can be immediately righted. And “bad business” may very well be how Weinstein sees his predicament: despite his claim that he’s “been trying to do this for 10 years,” the timing of his progressive promises suggests that he is reacting to the sudden pressure of many women’s’ voices, at last amplified loud enough to threaten his career.
From left to right: Melania Trump, Donald Trump, Georgina Chapman, and Harvey Weinstein at a party in 2009.
In the context of everything else about the Weinstein situation circulating in the media this week, the statement reads as a something between a calculated deflection and a genuine but naïve self-justification. There’s the pathetic sense that he might not fully understand what he’s done wrong. Worse than an old dog, Lisa Bloom called him “an old dinosaur learning new ways,” as if this is supposed to win him our sympathy. But stupidity isn’t innocence.