Several women, including Hollywood actresses Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan, accused the movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of harassing them sexually.
The alleged harassment happened over the course of many years, according to a report published Thursday by the New York Times. Weinstein, who is Jewish, declined to go into the report’s details, acknowledged he bears some responsibility for the accusations but said the Times’ report is rife with inaccuracies and that he plans to sue the paper for £38 million ($50 million), the New York Post reported.
After the report was published, Weinstein, 65, issued a statement in which he said he’ll “take a leave of absence” from his production firm, The Weinstein Company, and “spend more time with a therapist.”
According to the Times’ expose of Weinstein — who produced many box office hits including “Pulp Fiction,” “Sex, Lies and Videotape,” “The Crying Game” and “Clerks” — he used his position of influence in Hollywood to demand sexual favours from actresses and female assistants over the past three decades.
He has paid off at least eight women to settle complaints about his lewd behaviour, according to the Times.
The women, most in their early to mid-20s at the time, said Weinstein would appear near or fully naked, make them watch him bathe or give him a massage, and in at least one instance press a young employee for sex, The New York Times reported.
Some were paid £60,000 ($80,000) to £114,000 ($150,000) each to make their complaints go away, the Times said, with “Scream” actress McGowan, then 23, getting £76,000 ($100,000) in 1997 over an incident that took place during the Sundance Film Festival.
Judd told the Times that she was filming 1997’s “Kiss the Girls” when Weinstein, who has five kids and has been married to fashion designer Georgina Chapman since 2007, lured her to his hotel room.
Judd said she showed up at the Peninsula Beverly Hills for a planned breakfast meeting but instead got sent up to his suite and subjected to a series of sexual advances.
She said that Weinstein, a co-founder of the successful Miramax production company, offered to give her a massage or a shoulder rub, solicited her advice on what he should wear and even asked whether she wanted to watch him shower.
“I said no, a lot of ways, a lot of times, and he always came back at me with some new ask,” she told the Times. “It was all this bargaining, this coercive bargaining.”
Judd, who was not among the women the Times said scored settlements, described feeling “panicky, trapped” and recalled thinking, “How do I get out of the room as fast as possible without alienating Harvey Weinstein?”
Judd’s mother, singer Naomi Judd, told the Times that her daughter confided in her about what happened a short time afterward. Judd appeared in two Weinstein films years after the alleged incident. She said that Weinstein was the unidentified producer she described in a 2015 Variety report in which she first revealed the alleged harassment.
Judd said she decided to identify him because “women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time, and it’s simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly.”
Weinstein told the New York Post that his is suing the Times because they based some of their reporting on a 2014 memo that was written by his former employee Lauren O’Connor but then withdrawn. He also said he was given 24 hours to respond to the allegations raised against him, saying this was insufficient time.
The Times did not honour their promise to tell Weinstein in advance of all on-record interviewees accusing him of misconduct, he also said.