For nearly three decades now, the Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein has allegedly been assaulting women in the industry. And, for nearly three decades now, the industry has remained largely silent about those assaults. Part of that has been because Weinstein made settlements with at least eight women over the years which likely included nondisclosure agreements, as evidenced by one anonymous source and apparently by the silence of Rose McGowan, the outspoken actress who made a previously undisclosed settlement with Weinstein in 1997 after he reportedly assaulted her, and has recently taken to tweeting about Weinstein using a blank space instead of his name.
But there are, of course, other reasons Weinstein’s widespread assaults remained a so-called “open secret” for so long: The majority of sexual assaults go unreported, often given that, as Amber Tamblyn recently pointed out in the New York Times, women who come forward are rarely believed. There’s also the fact that Weinstein had undeniably more power than his targets, including the ability to come at them full force with his legal team. (Indeed, shortly after “sincerely apologiz[ing]” for his behavior and promising to treat women better, Weinstein then threatened to sue the Times, which published the exposé, for a reported $50 million.)
Evidently, the secret wasn’t so open, though, because until now, it never reached the ears of one Meryl Streep, who’s worked with Weinstein on films like August: Osage County and The Iron Lady, the latter of which won her an Academy Award, which she accepted with a speech in which she called Weinstein a “god.” Had she known about his history, though, Streep’s speech may have more closely resembled the one earlier this year at the Golden Globes in which she called out the President of the United States in the weeks before he took office, as she seemed to suggest in a statement released to the Huffington Post this morning about the “disgraceful news” that has “appalled those of us whose work [Weinstein] championed, and those whose good and worthy causes he supported.”
Indeed, a few hours later on Monday, Judi Dench, who’s credited Weinstein with much of her success over the past two decades, starting with her first starring role in a movie, released a statement of her own that echoed Streep’s. “I was completely unaware of these offenses which are, of course, horrifying, and I offer my sympathy to those who have suffered, and wholehearted support to those who have spoken out,” Dench wrote. (Otherwise, it would follow, she wouldn’t have spent recent years repeatedly joking about having Weinstein’s name tattooed on her butt.)
“One thing can be clarified. Not everybody knew,” Streep wrote in her statement. “I didn’t know about these other offenses: I did not know about his financial settlements with actresses and colleagues; I did not know about his having meetings in his hotel room, his bathroom, or other inappropriate, coercive acts.” In fact, in her own experience, Weinstein was simply “exasperating but respectful,” as she said he was “with many others with whom he worked professionally.”
But as Weinstein’s fellow powerful figure in Hollywood, that treatment isn’t too surprising, which could be why Streep seems a bit optimistic when she added that “if everybody knew, I don’t believe that all the investigative reporters in the entertainment and the hard news media would have neglected for decades to write about it.” (The Times in fact planned to publish a version of its exposé back in 2004, which, if former Times reporter Sharon Waxman’s account is to be believed, was then buried after Weinstein himself, an advertiser of influence in the paper, made his displeasure known in a visit to the newsroom.)
Streep may not have known about Weinstein’s “inexcusable” behavior, but she certainly does seem to recognize it. “The abuse of power is familiar,” she said, continuing that “each brave voice that is raised, heard and credited by our watchdog media will ultimately change the game,” in a statement that echoed her Golden Globes speech, in which she urged the industry members present—which included Weinstein, who held his own Globes after-party—to join her in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists, reminding them that “we need the principled press to hold power to account, to call [Trump] on the carpet for every outrage.”
Streep and Dench are hardly the only celebrities to recently join journalists in holding power to account. Brie Larson, Amber Tamblyn, Judd Apatow, and Lena Dunham are just some of those who took to Twitter to speak out against Weinstein after the Times published their story. Saturday Night Live may have shelved its jokes about Weinstein at the last minute—Lorne Michaels commented that that was because “it’s a New York thing,” even though the jokes on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight With John Oliver certainly seemed to resonate with audiences—but more A-listers like Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore have joined those speaking out over the last 24 hours, which saw Weinstein get fired from his own company.
In fact, SNL now seems to be the only one not turning its back on Weinstein; even Weinstein’s lawyer and advisor, Lisa Bloom, resigned from representing him just two days after the Times published its story.
And then there’s Donald Trump Jr., who’s been particularly vocal about Weinstein, calling out Streep, Michaels, Michael Moore, Michael Che, Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Ben Affleck, Jimmy Kimmel, and, yes, finally the entire Hollywood industry through a series of tweets and retweets. Kimmel, for one, did not miss the hypocrisy in Trump Jr. making such a fuss over a story in a paper his family has repeatedly accused of publishing “fake news.”
Of course, Trump Jr.’s crusade against Weinstein, which began with a tweet that called Weinstein out for “3 decades of rampant sexual hatrassment [sic],” is probably just a diversion tactic. After all, he has a scandal of his own to cover up, involving some Russians.
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