Matt Damon: Al Franken and Harvey Weinstein 'don't belong in the same category'
In an extensive sit down interview, Matt Damon championed the current "watershed moment" of sexual misconduct victims coming forward, while also sharing his belief that not all of the actions should be viewed the same way.
"I think it's wonderful that women are feeling empowered to tell their stories, and it's totally necessary," he shared on an upcoming edition of ABC's Popcorn with Peter Travers. "I do believe there's a spectrum of behavior… There's a difference between patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right? Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn't be conflated."
For his example, Damon cited Senator Al Franken, who recently announced he'll be resigning in the coming weeks following allegations that began with a 2006 photo of the politician groping broadcaster Leeann Tweeden, and the actor's Good Will Hunting producer Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of sexual assault and rape by multiple women.
"When you see Al Franken taking a picture putting his hands on that woman's flak jacket and mugging for the camera… that is just like a terrible joke, and it's not funny. It's wrong, and he shouldn't have done that," opined the Oscar winner. "But when you talk about Harvey and what he's accused of, there are no pictures of that. He knew he was up to no good. There's no witnesses. There's no pictures. There's no braggadocio. That stuff happened secretly, because it was criminal and he knew it. So they don't belong in the same category."
As in previous interviews, Damon claimed no knowledge of the depths of Weinstein's alleged mistreatment of women, saying, "I knew I wouldn't want him married to anyone close to me. But that was the extent of what we knew."
The Downsizing star also discussed other high-profile celebrities accused of sexual misconduct, including Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K., who publicly admitted to his alleged behavior. Upon seeing the comedian's response, Damon recalled thinking, "Well, we can work with that."
"And the fear for me is that right now, we're in this moment — and I hope it doesn't stay this way — the clear signal to men and to younger people is, deny it," shared Damon. "Because if you take responsibility for what you did, your life's going to get ruined. But if you deny it, you can be in the White House, you can be the president." <iframe src="http://abcnews.go.com/video/embed?id=51796050" width="640" height="360" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" class="" allowfullscreen="" resize="0" replace_attributes="1" name=""></iframe>
Following accusations by actor Anthony Rapp, who at the time was 14, of unwanted sexual advances by a then-26-year-old Spacey, the now-fired House of Cards star issued a statement via Twitter. "I have a lot of respect and admiration for Anthony Rapp as an actor. I'm beyond horrified to hear his story," Spacey wrote in part. "I honestly do not remember the encounter, it would have been over 30 years ago. But if I did behave as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior, and I am sorry for the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years."
Last month, in the midst of the allegations being levied against him and before announcing his resignation, Franken issued a statement acknowledging he "crossed a line for some women." "Some women have found my greetings or embraces for a hug or photo inappropriate, and I respect their feelings about that," he said, per the Associated Press. "I've thought a lot in recent days about how that could happen, and recognize that I need to be much more careful and sensitive in these situations. I feel terribly that I've made some women feel badly and for that I am so sorry, and I want to make sure that never happens again."
In a statement provided to EW earlier this month by attorneys Blair Berk and Ben Brafman on behalf of Weinstein, the producer denied any allegations of sexual assault: "Mr. Weinstein has never at any time committed an act of sexual assault, and it is wrong and irresponsible to conflate claims of impolitic behavior or consensual sexual contact later regretted, with an untrue claim of criminal conduct. There is a wide canyon between mere allegation and truth, and we are confident that any sober calculation of the facts will prove no legal wrongdoing occurred. Nonetheless, to those offended by Mr. Weinstein's behavior, he remains deeply apologetic."
Watch a clip above. The full interview will be available Dec. 27.