This morning, The New Yorker published audio of Harvey Weinstein admitting to groping Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez and then desperately trying to pressure her into entering his hotel room. The incident now sits near the center of an ever-growing web of sexual harassment and assault allegations levied against the film mogul. Several woman have come forward, including A-list actresses, with allegations against Weinstein, almost of all them fitting a pattern of similar predatory behavior.
Though, while the tape may be new to the public, the basic facts of Gutierrez’s case were brought to the public’s attention shortly after the March 2015 incident. The details of her case in particular should come as no surprise.
So why did it take two-and-half years after the model reported the incident to the police for the world, not to mention Hollywood-at-large, to take her allegations seriously? The answer isn’t simple, but the fact that two tabloid outlets eagerly dug into Gutierrez’s past and repeatedly called into question her motivation for reporting the incident may have been a big part of it—and may have stopped other victims from coming forward for fear they may receive the same tabloid treatment.
In fact, reading reports from both The New York Post‘s Page Six gossip column and the British-based Daily Mail after reading the fact-based details from the night is chilling. The Mail, for instance, passed along “speculation” that Gutierrez had fabricated the claims “in a bid to try and land a part in one of Weinstein’s films.” The Mail echoed the idea and repeatedly dismissed it as a “pipe dream.” The Post plastered a picture of her in a bikini on the cover, and labeled her the “‘Grope’ Beauty.” Both outlets also made much of the fact that Gutierrez accepted free tickets to a play Weinstein was producing after he groped her.
Below, a detailed account of what we know now, and how both gossip outlets treated the story at the time.
The Details of How They Met
Gutierrez attended a reception at the Weinstein-produced “New York Spring Spectacular,” at Radio City Music Hall where the pair originally met. According to the New Yorker, it was Weinstein who approached Gutierrez and told her she looked like Mila Kunis.
While Page Six would report that the pair “exchanged emails to set up an audition,” the New Yorker clarifies that Weinstein set up a meeting through Gutierrez’s modeling agency, and that it was the agency who informed her of a meeting, ostensibly to talk business, at Weinstein’s Tribeca offices.
During the meeting, Weinstein “lunged at her, groping her breasts and attempting to put a hand up her skirt while she protested,” according to the New Yorker. She protested and told the film producer to stop, and eventually he did. Though, not before offering her free tickets for the following night to Finding Neverland, a Broadway show he was producing.
Both outlets’ original reports also started a trend that would mark almost all their stories about Gutierrez: they were illustrated with a gratuitous number of photographs of Gutierrez in a bikini, taken from her modeling work or from her personal Instagram account.
How Tabloids Misrepresented Gutierrez’s Decision to Attend a Play With Weinstein
According to the New Yorker, Guiterrez skipped the original show and post-show date and instead went to the police. During that time Weinstein called her, annoyed she had missed the show. “She picked up the call while sitting with investigators from the Special Victims Division, who listened in on the call and devised a plan: Gutierrez would agree to see the show the following day and then meet with Weinstein. She would wear a wire and attempt to extract a confession or incriminating statement.”
Both Page Six and the Mail would use the fact the she went to the second show against her, unaware that she was working with police to collect evidence against the man who had groped her. “Model attended Weinstein show day after alleged ‘grope’,” blared the Page Six online headline. “Harvey Weinstein model used the $227 ticket he gave her to see his Broadway show the day AFTER she alleged he groped her… ‘despite knowing he would be at the theater,'” echoed the Mail headline.
The Page Six story was particularly leading, claiming in the opening paragraph that “the beautiful Italian model who claims she was traumatized by Harvey Weinstein’s wandering hands wasn’t upset enough to surrender a primo seat for his new Broadway show.” The intent seems clear: the tabloids painted her as someone out simply for free perks who hadn’t really been traumatized by Weinstein.
The Tale of the Tape and the #WaterOnly Hashtag
In the same item, Page Six would also cite an anonymous law enforcement source who clearly did not seem to be fully aware of the situation. “There’s no physical evidence. In a nutshell, there’s no corroboration of her story. That’s the issue here,” the source claimed.
Of course, we now know that Gutierrez was only there to collect corroborating evidence in the first place. So much for that source.
The New Yorker obtained a portion of the audio evidence captured that night after the show and outside Weinstein’s room at the Tribeca Grand Hotel, which can be heard here. It should be noted that reporter Ronan Farrow had heard the full audio while reporting his piece.
“Why yesterday you touch my breast?” the model asks the mogul at one point.
“Oh, please, I’m sorry. I’m used to that,” Weinstein replied.
“You’re used to that?” she asks.
“Yes, come in,” he says.
“No, but I’m not used to that,” she says.
“I won’t do it again, come on, sit here,” he says, admitting that he had groped her.
Gutierrez refused to enter the room. Eventually, he agreed to let her leave.
Another excerpt from the tape also stands out when compared to Page Six’s reporting at the time. The column made light of the fact that Gutierrez posted a (since-deleted) Instagram from the Tribeca Grand Hotel. “Having a Drink. Aka #water. #WaterOnly,” she captioned the photo.
“I’m going to take a shower. You sit there and have a drink,” Weinstein tells her at the begining of the tape.
“I don’t drink,” she says.
“Then have a glass of water,” he says.
Both Page Six and The Mail would report, citing unnamed sources, that Gutierrez “refused to ‘cooperate’ with authorities for four days after she initially reported to police.” In light of Farrow’s reporting, that has also been proven false.
Page Six would include several more quotes from anonymous sources casting aspersions on Gutierrez. In its original story, the tabloid column quoted an anonymous law enforcement source claiming the case was “BS” and that, “It’s not going anywhere.” A “movie industry source” was promptly quoted as saying, “We believe this is a blackmail attempt, and he did nothing wrong.”
Digging Into Her Past
Despite Weinstein’s lecherous reputation, both Page Six and the Mail decided to delve into Gutierrez’s past instead. What they found wasn’t particularly damning. In light of the New Yorker‘s piece, it seems like the model has a history of not being afraid to speak up against creepy but powerful men. She had once attended one of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s “bunga-bunga” parties, although she wasn’t aware of the nature of the party until she arrived. She would later testify as a witness against Berlusconi in a bribery case about what happened in the party. She also once accused a former boyfriend of sexual assault, but ended up not pursuing the charges. The Daily Mail even spoke to another former boyfriend, who said, “I’m glad we broke up.'”
After the Charges Were Dropped
On April 10th, the Manhattan DA’s office announced they wouldn’t pursue charges. Page Six took the opportunity to continue to victim-blame. They quoted one anonymous source who claimed, “She’s an opportunist. That doesn’t make her an ideal victim,” and also rehashed the theory that she was chasing a movie role in one of Weinstein’s films. Another of their sources claimed she wasn’t a “serious victim.”
“The delay led to speculation Gutierrez made the groping allegation in a bid to try and land a part in one of Weinstein’s films,” wrote the Daily Mail, again pushing the idea that there was a four-day delay before she went to police. “Once that ‘pipe dream’ came to nothing, she decided to cooperate and pursue the criminal case, according to sources.”
Though, the New Yorker has spoken to law enforcement sources who say that they believed they had a strong case: “Two sources close to the police investigation said that they had no reason to doubt Gutierrez’s account of the incident. One of them, a police source, said that the department had collected more than enough evidence to prosecute Weinstein.”
The sources ultimately place the decision not to move forward with the charges at the feet of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. (Months later, a lawyer who often worked for Weinstein would donate $10,000 to Vance Jr.’s reelection campaign).
“We had the evidence,” the New Yorker‘s police source continued. “It’s a case that made me angrier than I thought possible, and I have been on the force a long time.”
Eventually Learning of the Tape
It should also be noted that by the time the charges were dropped, Page Six would learn that there was some sort of tape out there in which Weinstein didn’t deny groping his victim. Still, even then, Page Six found another source to explain away the entire incident in the first place.
“Even though Weinstein doesn’t deny the breast grab, the D.A. would have a heard time in court with it,” said the source. “His defense would be that as part of his job as a producer he needs to make sure that her breasts are real. And she went to see him in a business capacity.”
One Final Humiliation
Two months after the case was dropped, the Mail wasn’t done with Gutierrez yet. Online, the publication published paparazzi photos of the model at the beach in Miami and painted her as a shamed woman. They claimed she was “forced to flee New York,” and repeated—again—the questionable claims that she merely wanted a part in a movie.
Of course, both the New Yorker expose and the earlier New York Times story reveal that several victims claimed they were afraid to come forward because Weinstein was vindictive and could ruin their careers and reputations.
“Multiple sources said that Weinstein frequently bragged about planting items in media outlets about those who spoke against him; these sources feared that they might be similarly targeted,” reports the New Yorker.
While there’s no evidence that has surfaced that either Page Six or the Mail took direct editorial cues from Weinstein’s camp—in a piece for the Times, Tina Brown, who edited Weinstein’s ill-fated magazine Talk, claimed the producer acted as a source to gossip outlets and had several tabloid reporters in his employment—it seems that both outlets had no qualms about muddying the reputation of Gutierrez. Of course, both outlets continue to report on the fallout surrounding the Weinstein allegations without mentioning the roles they may have played at the outset of the saga.