Harvey Weinstein will be taking a leave of absence from The Weinstein Company after multiple women, including Ashley Judd, stepped forward to accuse him of sexual harassment.
A New York Times exposé published Thursday chronicles “decades” of alleged harassment by Weinstein and claims he “reached at least eight settlements with women, according to two company officials speaking on the condition of anonymity.” In the article, eight different women allege inappropriate behavior from Weinstein, including claims that he appeared naked or partially naked in front of them, or asked for a massage.
“Women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time, and it’s simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly,” Judd, who alleged Weinstein asked her to watch him shower during a business meeting in Weinstein’s hotel room, told The Times.
Weinstein’s lawyer Lisa Bloom said that he “denies many of the accusations as patently false.” In a statement, Weinstein’s lawyer Charles Harder added the producer is preparing a lawsuit against the Times. “The New York Times published today a story that is saturated with false and defamatory statements about Harvey Weinstein. It relies on mostly hearsay accounts and a faulty report, apparently stolen from an employee personnel file, which has been debunked by 9 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.”
In his statement to The Times, Weinstein apologized for “the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past” and cited JAY-Z’s album 4:44 as part of his desire “to learn about myself and conquer my demons.” He added that he plans to take a leave of absence from the company “to deal with this issue head on.” (Weinstein, Bloom, and JAY-Z are partnered together for a six-part documentary series on Trayvon Martin set to debut in 2018.)
“I came of age in the [’60s] and [’70s], when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then,” Weinstein said in his statement to the Times. “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.”
Weinstein closed his statement by pivoting to the current debate over gun control, which has reached a critical mass in the days since a mass shooting in Las Vegas left at least 58 people dead on Sunday. “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,” Weinstein said. “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.”
The Weinstein Company did not immediately respond to EW’s request for comment.
In a statement released after the Times story published to The Hollywood Reporter, Bloom said she and Weinstein “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.”
She added, “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.”
According to Bloom, while Weinstein does “dispute many of the allegations,” he is “not going to demean or attack any of the women making accusations against him.”
The Times article comes two years ago after Judd gave an interview to Variety where she described being sexually harassed by an unnamed studio mogul — which she now claims was Weinstein.
“I beat myself up for a while,” Judd wrote at the time, describing her feelings in the aftermath of the alleged meeting. “This is another part of the process. We internalize the shame. It really belongs to the person who is the aggressor. And so later, when I was able to see what happened, I thought: Oh god, that’s wrong. That’s sexual harassment. That’s illegal. I was really hard on myself because I didn’t get out of it by saying, ‘OK motherf—er, I’m calling the police.'”
News of the Times report first broke on Wednesday, when it was revealed by The Hollywood Reporter that Weinstein hired lawyers to help fight against the article (plus another feature, apparently being written for The New Yorker). In a statement Wednesday, Weinstein said, “The story sounds so good, I want to buy the movie rights.”
Weinstein has been married to designer Georgina Chapman since 2007. He has five children: two with Chapman and three from his previous marriage.
This post has been updated throughout