OSCARS ACADEMY KICK OUT HARVEY WEINSTEIN OVER SEXUAL ASSAULT ALLEGATIONS
CNN – Harvey Weinstein — who more than anyone defined and shaped the sharp-elbowed art of Oscar campaigning — has been expelled from the group that presents the Academy Awards.
In the latest and perhaps most symbolic blow to the Hollywood mogul since a host of sexual harassment and assault allegations went public nine days ago, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences board voted on Saturday to strip Weinstein’s membership.
In a statement, the academy said the action, which is effective immediately, was intended “not simply to separate ourselves from someone who does not merit the respect of his colleagues but also to send a message that the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over.”
Weinstein has already had his membership suspended in BAFTA, the British version of the Oscars, and faces separate action from the Producers Guild of America. That vote has been delayed until Monday, according to Variety.
The academy’s decision — voted on by its 54 board members in a special meeting — continues what amounts to an industry-wide attempt to purge Weinstein from the place he has occupied in the film business.
Given the outsized role Weinstein has played in the Oscars for decades, being censured by an organization he so assiduously courted comes as a particularly sharp rebuke.
Although academy members have been disciplined for violating its rules, there is virtually no precedent for ousting someone in the face of a scandal. As reports have noted, director Roman Polanski — who fled the U.S. in 1978 to avoid the legal consequences of a rape involving a 13-year-old girl — and Mel Gibson, who temporarily became an industry pariah after making anti-Semitic remarks, remained members.
Under the academy’s bylaws, two thirds of the board had to agree to take such an action. Some of the higher-profile members include Whoopi Goldberg, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks.
Since the New York Times first reported on sexual-harassment accusations against Weinstein last Thursday, dozens of women have come forward recounting their own experiences. The New Yorker published its own account, which included charges of rape by three women.
Weinstein-backed films, through Miramax and then the Weinstein Co., have won dozens of Oscars, including best picture wins for “The King’s Speech” and “The Artist.” Weinstein was also an individual recipient in 1999 as the producer of “Shakespeare in Love.”
Through his representative, Weinstein has categorically denied that any non-consensual sex took place. He did express some contrition in a statement after the New York Times piece in which he apologized for past behavior that has “caused a lot of pain” and said he would take a leave of absence to “conquer my demons.”
The vote regarding Weinstein could have implications for the academy in the future, since it will almost surely be used as a benchmark when other situations involving members arise. Speaking on condition of anonymity, one source has called it a “watershed moment.”
The academy’s initial statement announcing the meeting said that it found Weinstein’s actions as described “repugnant, abhorrent and antithetical to the high standards of the Academy and the creative community it represents.” On Saturday, it said it’s working to advance ethical standards that “all Academy members will be expected to exemplify.”
Weinstein’s brother Bob, CEO of the Weinstein Co., said that Harvey “definitely should be kicked out” of the academy in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter.
The Times piece detailed allegations of sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact with women going back decades, and at least eight separate settlements. The roster of on-the-record quotes included actress Ashley Judd and Mark Gill, an executive who had formerly run Weinstein’s Miramax Films.
Weinstein responded with a strategically confusing statement that expressed contrition, while he simultaneously criticized the paper and threatened legal action.
A spokeswoman for Weinstein told CNN this week that “any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied.” In his original statement, Weinstein apologized for “the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past,” and stated that he needs to “conquer my demons.”
Bloom, best known for representing women in similar matters, also came under fire for participating in Weinstein’s defense, She subsequently resigned shortly after the story broke.
Criticism began almost immediately, mostly from conservative media voices, about Democratic politicians — who accepted money from Weinstein, a major donor — not distancing themselves or criticizing him.
Related charges were leveled at late-night comics who had lampooned famous conservative figures accused of harassment, including Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly.
After being noticeably quiet to start, late-night comics seemed to rally. There was a flurry of coverage and new accusers and virtually all the late-night hosts began to tell Weinstein jokes. And politicians, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, have since condemned the alleged behavior.
The New Yorker delivers a second blow
The New Yorker published its story on Oct. 10, with even more explosive accusations, with three women accusing Weinstein of raping them. Moreover, the piece included audiotape of a sting operation in which Weinstein was recorded seemingly seeking to coerce a model, Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, into acceding to his demands, at one point telling her, “Don’t ruin your friendship with me for five minutes.”
Written by Ronan Farrow, the release of the article also turned attention to NBC News, which had passed on an opportunity to air a TV piece or, barring that, post the story on its website. An NBC contributor, Farrow referred questions regarding how the story slipped away to the network, with NBC News president Noah Oppenheim saying that those responsible “didn’t feel that we had all the elements that we needed to air.”
Actress Rose McGowan added her voice to those who have accused Weinstein of rape, identifying him — with his initials in a tweet — as the executive she referred to last year only anonymously. She also produced a backlash against Twitter, which temporarily suspended her account. (The explanation was that she violated its terms of service by posting a private phone number, but that didn’t quell outrage charging hypocrisy on Twitter’s part.)
After Ben Affleck expressed that he was “saddened and angry” by the story, video was resurfaced of the actor groping Hilarie Burton during a 2003 appearance on MTV’s “Total Request Live.” He subsequently apologized.
Others have been forced to apologize or walk back comments defending or expressing sympathy for Weinstein, including Lindsay Lohan, designer Donna Karan, and director Oliver Stone.
Company under siege
On a corporate level, the future of the Weinstein Co. is now in doubt, with questions still swirling as to what board members might have known, or should have, regarding his actions. In a statement, the board denied knowing about any abuse, or confidential payments to abuse victims, and on Friday, Weinstein’s brother Bob, the company’s CEO, issued a statement saying there are no plans to sell the company, insisting “business is continuing as usual.”
Several high-profile actresses, such as Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, have shared their own stories and accusations of being sexually harassed by Weinstein.
Those who have worked closely with Weinstein are now being asked about what they knew, or had heard — a question seems likely to come up on red carpets and at other public events for some time to come.
Amid the fast-moving fallout, executives and talent are seeking to extricate themselves from existing and pending deals with the Weinstein Co.
Weinstein also faces potential legal jeopardy, with authorities in New York and London saying that they are investigating allegations of sexual assault involving him.
Steps to professionally shun Weinstein will likely continue this weekend, as both the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Producers Guild of America will weigh in on his status with those organizations on Saturday. The academy’s British counterpart, commonly known as BAFTA, has already suspended his membership.
On Friday, meanwhile, Roy Price took a leave of absence from Amazon Studios, where he oversees programming efforts, after accusations surfaced that in 2015, he had sexually harassed a producer on one of the service’s series, “The Man in the High Castle.” Price has not commented.
By the end of the week, perceptions were growing that there will be other shoes to drop as more women in Hollywood decide to speak out.