Christopher Rosen
October 10, 2017 AT 08:35 AM EDT

In a lengthy interview with The Daily Beast, George Clooney has spoken out about the sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein, calling the producer’s alleged behavior “indefensible.”

“I’ve heard rumors, and the rumors, in general, started back in the ’90s, and they were that certain actresses had slept with Harvey to get a role,” Clooney, who has known Weinstein for years, said late Monday. “It seemed like a way to smear the actresses and demean them by saying that they didn’t get the jobs based on their talent, so I took those rumors with a grain of salt. But the other part of this, the part we’re hearing now about eight women being paid off, I didn’t hear anything about that and I don’t know anyone that did. That’s a whole other level and there’s no way you can reconcile that. There’s nothing to say except that it’s indefensible.”

Last week, the New York Times published a report on Weinstein, alleging decades of sexual harassment — with actress Ashley Judd among the women who spoke out against the former executive. In the aftermath of the news, Lauren Sivan, a local news reporter in New York, alleged Weinstein exposed himself in front of her and masturbated.

Weinstein, who was fired from The Weinstein Company on Sunday, released a statement in the wake of the Times story, saying in part, “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.” In a separate statement, attorney Lisa Bloom, who was acting as an advisor for Weinstein, said he denied many of the claims in the Times story as “patently false.” (Bloom has since parted ways with Weinstein and no longer advising him.) Weinstein attorney Charles Harder also said his client was preparing a lawsuit against the Times for its story.

Weinstein has not commented on the claims made by Sivan.

Speaking to The Daily Beast, Clooney said he had heard stories about Weinstein in the past, but not to the “level” alleged in the Times report, which included claims that “Weinstein has reached at least eight settlements with women, according to two company officials speaking on the condition of anonymity.”

“A lot of people are doing the ‘you had to know’ thing right now, and yes, if you’re asking if I knew that someone who was very powerful had a tendency to hit on young, beautiful women, sure,” Clooney said. “But I had no idea that it had gone to the level of having to pay off eight women for their silence, and that these women were threatened and victimized. I’ve been talking with a lot of people about this, and I don’t know many people who knew of that.”

Clooney, who made his directorial debut with Weinstein on 2002’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, is among a number of former Weinstein collaborators to speak out against the producer, joining Meryl Streep (who won an Oscar for the 2011 Weinstein release The Iron Lady), Jennifer Lawrence (who won an Oscar for the 2012 Weinstein release Silver Linings Playbook), and Kate Winslet (who won an Oscar for the 2008 Weinstein release The Reader).

“I had knock-down, drag-out fights with him over the years, but he was also making films that other studios weren’t willing to make, and he was making films that everybody loved, so you just put up with certain bad behavior because you felt like, well, if he yells and screams but he gets Pulp Fiction made, who cares if he yells and screams?” Clooney said of Weinstein’s legacy in Hollywood and his prior reputation. “But it’s a very different conversation when you say, it’s not that he yells and screams but that he’s cornering a young, scared lady in a restaurant and telling her to stand there and be quiet while he jerks off. That’s a very different kind of behavior, and had that been a public thing, I think there would have been some different results. I hope there would be.”

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