The studio boss and movie producer is on an 'indefinite leave of absence' following a 'New York Times' exposé

By Maureen Lee Lenker
October 06, 2017 at 08:31 PM EDT

Following Thursday’s New York Times exposé alleging “decades of sexual assault” claims against producer and movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, the board of the Weinstein Company issued a statement Friday saying it has hired an independent law firm “to undertake a thorough and independent investigation” in the company’s commitment to “learn the full truth regarding the article’s very serious accusations.”

“We take extremely seriously the accusations published in today’s New York Times about our Company’s co-chairman Harvey Weinstein,” the statement obtained by EW reads in part. “It is essential to our Company’s culture that all women who work for it or have any dealings with it or any of our executives are treated with respect and have no experience of harassment or discrimination.”

Eight different women, including actress Ashley Judd, accused the Oscar-winning producer of sexual harassment, claiming he appeared naked or partially naked in front of them, or asked for a massage; the newspaper claims Weinstein “reached at least eight settlements with women, according to two company officials speaking on the condition of anonymity.”

Weinstein issued a statement to the Times apologizing for “the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past,” while his lawyer Lisa Bloom said in a separate statement Thursday that he “denies many of the accusations as patently false.” Weinstein’s lawyer Charles Harder also said in a statement that the producer is preparing a lawsuit against the publication. “The New York Times published today a story that is saturated with false and defamatory statements about Harvey Weinstein,” that statement said. “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.”

“We believe it is important to learn the full truth regarding the article’s very serious accusations, in the interests of the Company, its shareholders and its employees,” the Weinstein Company board says in its statement, adding Weinstein’s “indefinite leave of absence” began Friday. “As Harvey has said, it is important for him to get professional help for the problems he has acknowledged. Next steps will depend on Harvey’s therapeutic progress, the outcome of the Board’s independent investigation, and Harvey’s own personal decisions.”

—With reporting by Jessica Derschowitz