By Kevin Bailey
Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein is accused of serial sexual misconduct. The accusations span his entire career, and have resulted in multiple private settlements. One of higher profile names in the New York Times‘ shattering report is Ashley Judd. Twenty years ago, Weinstein invited Judd, then 28 years old, to the Peninsula Beverly Hills Hotel for what she thought would be a business meeting over breakfast. Judd quickly learned that he had other plans. He had her brought to his room, where he (clad only in a bathrobe) was waiting. Judd told the New York Times that she tried to find a way out of that room as quickly as possible, without also offending Weinstein.
An Imbalance of Power
Fear of offending Weinstein is a recurring theme among those victimized. This is due to the extreme imbalance of power in the relationships he exploited for his sexual gratification. Many of the victims did not even have the cache of young Ashley Judd.
Consider the case of Emily Nestor. In 2014, Nestor had only been working for one day, as a temporary employee, when Weinstein ordered her to come to the same hotel where he accosted Judd almost twenty years earlier. He told her he would help her with her career if she would let him use her sexually. She refused his advanced, and told her colleagues at the temp agency what Weinstein had done. Those colleagues then relayed her accounts to executives at the Weinstein Company.
Not even a year later, in 2015, Weinstein again used the Peninsula for his despicable acts. He badgered a young female assistant into giving him a massage, while he was completely naked. One of the woman’s colleagues at the Weinstein company, Lauren O’Connor, wrote in a memo that the assistant was “crying and distraught” when she recounted what happened.
Long History of Sexual Misconduct
Weinstein’s history of sexual misconduct extends for at least thirty years, according to the Times’ damning investigation. Many previously unknown allegations were documented by the Times through interviews with his employees and workers in the film industry. The Times also gained access to legal documents, emails, and internal records from the two businesses he has run over the years, Miramax and the Weinstein Company.
All the accusations against Weinstein have a common narrative. First, he sends for a young woman to be brought to a hotel. This hotel is often the Peninsula, but he also used the Savoy in London, the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc in France, and the Stein Eriksen Lodge. Then he claims the meeting is work-related. However, when the young woman arrives, he makes multiple unwanted sexual advances, until she either flees or gives in to his unwanted advances.
The O’Connor Memo
Lauren O’Connor’s memo landed on the desks of company executives like a thunderclap. Unlike previous allegations (including a salacious incident in which Weinstein was accused of sexual assault by an Italian model, with whom he later settled) this complaint came from a trusted employee of the company. It contained many pages of very detailed accusations. O’Connor described her own experiences as well as the experiences of women whom she had heard about over the years. Many of the women said they were scared to report his behavior because he made sure there were no witnesses. They also reported fearing retaliation from Weinstein, who is widely regarded as one of the most powerful men in Hollywood.
Over the years Weinstein has settled with eight women when confronted with these allegations. The settlements started all the way back in 1990, with one of Weinstein’s young assistants back in New York City. The most recent settlement was reached with O’Connor in 2015. Once that settlement was reached, O’Connor withdrew her complaint, and a planned investigation by outside counsel was scrapped. O’Connor refused to be interviewed for the bombshell New York Times story.