The Oscar-winning writer/director of Manchester By the Sea is slamming a student journalist from his alma mater for writing an opinion piece highlighting the sexual harassment allegations against the film’s star, Casey Affleck.
Kenneth Lonergan condemned the article in a letter to the editor of The Wesleyan Argus, in which he accused the sophomore journalism student of writing a “tangle of illogic, misinformation, and flat-out slander” against Affleck, who recently won an Oscar for his performance in the film.
Last week, in a piece titled “How Wesleyan Is Complicit in Affleck’s Sexual Misconducted by Endorsing Lonergan ’84,” assistant opinion editor Connor Aberle criticized the college for its “praise” of Lonergan, and called Affleck’s Best Actor win “severely problematic.”
“Wesleyan University cannot insist on claiming credit for Kenneth Lonergan unless they also acknowledge their complicity in the success of a perpetrator of sexual violence,” Aberle wrote. “Lonergan essentially won Affleck his Oscar by handpicking Affleck for his movie.”
Aberle’s comments refer to the two sexual-harassment lawsuits that were filed against Affleck in 2010 by two women who worked with him on the film I’m Still Here. Affleck has denied the allegations, and settled the suits out of court for undisclosed amounts. In the settlement, the actor did not admit any guilt, and he and his accusers are barred from discussing details of the case.
Lonergan responded to Aberle’s article with an opinion piece of his own, titled, “How Connor Aberle and The Argus are Complicit in Slandering Casey Affleck.” The director slammed Aberle’s writing as slander, writing, “Only the author’s presumed youth can possibly excuse his deeply offensive display of ignorance, and warped PC-fueled sense of indignation.”
He added, “He writes as if Casey Affleck were actually guilty of a crime. In fact, it was alleged 7 years ago, in a civil lawsuit for breach of contract, that Casey sexually harassed two women formerly in his employ. Casey denounced the allegations as being totally fabricated. Like most civil suits, this one was settled out of court by mutual consent on undisclosed terms … In other words nothing was proved or disproved. So how does Mr Aberle dare to write as if he knows who was telling the truth and who was not?”
After Affleck won the Oscar, many took to social media to criticize the decision. In a recent interview with the Boston Globe, Affleck — the younger brother of Ben Affleck — addressed the criticism, saying, “There’s really nothing I can do about it. Other than live my life the way I know I live it and speak to what my own values are and how I try to live by them all the time.”
Affleck told the Globe that he is not permitted to speak about the now-settled lawsuits, and said that the people condemning him on social media don’t know the facts of the situation. “I believe that any kind of mistreatment of anyone for any reason is unacceptable and abhorrent,” he added. “Everyone deserves to be treated with respect in the workplace and anywhere else.”