Harvey Weinstein Announces Leave Of Absence After Report Of Alleged Sexual Harassment

LOS ANGELES (CBSNewYork/AP)Harvey Weinstein, the larger-than-life Hollywood executive and Oscar-winner, is taking a leave of absence from his own company after an explosive expose revealing decades of sexual harassment against women, from employees to actress Ashley Judd, was published in The New York Times Thursday.

The article includes first person accounts of Weinstein’s alleged conduct, including from Judd, who recounts an incident from two decades ago in which she said she was asked to meet Weinstein in his hotel room. Weinstein greeted her wearing a bathrobe and asked her if she would give him a massage or watch him shower, the paper reported.

“Women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time, and it’s simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly,” Judd told the Times.

Two company officials tell the Times that at least eight women have received settlements from Weinstein over the years, including actress Rose McGowan, who allegedly had an incident with him in 1997 when she was 23.

“The New York Times published today a story that is saturated with false and defamatory statements about Harvey Weinstein,” Weinstein’s attorney Charles J. Harder said in a statement. “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.”

Harder did not respond to questions from the Associated Press about what specific allegations Weinstein was contesting.

Requests for comment from The Weinstein Co. and Judd were not immediately returned.

Weinstein had a powerful perch in Hollywood for three decades, and was known for producing films like “Pulp Fiction” and “Shakespeare in Love,” for which he won an Oscar, and launching careers of actresses and directors with his company Miramax, which he ran with his brother Bob Weinstein. In 2005, they launched a new production company, The Weinstein Company. His often aggressive tactics were chronicled in the Peter Biskind book “Down and Dirty Pictures.”

Weinstein released a statement late Thursday in response to the allegations, as did attorney Lisa Bloom, who is advising him. Weinstein’s statement read:

“I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, 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.

“I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it,” Weinstein said in a statement. “Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go.”

His statement did not address any specific incidents.

Bloom’s statement 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.

Weinstein has been married to designer Georgina Chapman since 2007, they have two children together. He has three children from his previous marriage.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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