Reports: Weinstein allegedly used position for sexual coercion, media control
The public is now learning that Harvey Weinstein's history of alleged sexual exploitation of young actresses is almost as legendary as the film producer and studio executive himself.
What has emerged from the reports about Weinstein's decades of alleged sexual mistreatment of women is a broader pattern of abuse of power that not only affected his ability to coerce his victims, but to prevent the story from seeing the light of day.
As famous actresses like Ashley Judd, Gwenyth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Rose McGowan, Rosanna Arquette and others come forward to tell their stories about Harvey Weinstein, journalists are also stepping out of the shadows to discuss how their attempts to report on Weinstein's alleged abuses were blocked from publication.
THE POWER TO SILENCE THE PRESS
Shortly after The New York Times expose broke, The New Yorker published a lengthy piece by journalist Ronan Farrow documenting his ten-month investigation into the stories of 13 women who reported being sexually harassed or assaulted by Harvey Weinstein over the years. Three claimed he raped them.
"This has been an open secret to many in Hollywood and beyond," Farrow wrote. Yet previous attempts to shed light on the man who is credited with making and breaking careers were quashed, even Farrow's story which was rejected by NBC allegedly due to lack of journalistic evidence.
His piece was based on reports by at least 16 current and former employees at Weinstein's companies who said they witnessed or had knowledge of Weinstein making unwanted sexual advances on women.
"I walked into the door at The New Yorker with an explosively reportable piece that should have been public earlier," Farrow explained on the Rachel Maddow Show on Tuesday. "And it is not accurate to say that it was not reportable. In fact, there were multiple determinations that it was reportable at NBC."
Farrow didn't fully elaborate the reasons his story was killed, simply noting that "over many years, many news organizations have circled this story and faced a great deal of pressure in doing so."
Sharon Waxman, editor in chief at The Wrap wrote a similar account earlier this week, reacting to a story published by the New York Times about Weinstein's "media enablers" who were either unwilling or unable to publish the details.
Waxman, a former Hollywood correspondent for the Times denounced as "sanctimonious," explaining that in 2004 she was given te go-ahead to look into frequent allegations of sexual misconduct by Weinstein.
After chasing down first-hand accounts and cross-checking sources, the story never ran, Waxman said.
"After intense pressure from Weinstein, which included having Matt Damon and Russell Crowe call me directly to vouch for [head of Miramax Italy, Fabrizio] Lombardo and unknown discussions well above my head at the Times, the story was gutted," Waxman said.
"I was told at the time that Weinstein had visited the newsroom in person to make his displeasure known. I knew he was a major advertiser in the Times, and that he was a powerful person overall."
HOLLYWOOD'S 'OPEN SECRET'
As soon as the revelations came to light, many were asking, who knew about this?
Comedian and writer Tina Fey clearly knew about Weinstein and incorporated scathing jokes about his sexual provlicities in episodes of 30 Rock.
In one 2012 episode, Jenna Maroney, played by Jane Krakowski, joked that no one in Hollywood intimidated her. "I'm not afraid of anyone in show business. I turned down intercourse with Harvey Weinstein on no less than three occasions--out of five."
In another episode that same season, Krakowski's character joked about being "pinned under a passed-out Harvey Weinstein."
Weinstein was even the butt of an Oscar joke in 2013, delivered by comedy writer and satirist Seth MacFarlane. Announcing the 2012 Oscar nominees for Best Supporting Actress, MacFarlane quipped, "Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein."
The Family Guy creator elaborated on his 2013 remarks with a tweet on Wednesday, saying the joke "came from a place of loathing and anger."
Two years before going public with her charges against Weinstein, Ashley Judd came forward to tell her story of being sexually harassed by a "studio executive."
"He was very stealth and expert about it," she told Variety in a 2015 interview describing her experience while filming Kiss the Girls. She recalled later sitting in a room full of actors realizing that they had all had the same experience with the same mogul. "I have a feeling we are a legion."
Since October 5, more than 20 actors have alleged some form of sexual harassment or assault by Weinstein.
Among the revelations in Farrow's story, was that more than sixteen current and former employees confirmed that Weinstein's behavior was "widely known within both Miramax and the Weinstein Company."
After the story hit the press on Tuesday, The Weinstein Company's board of representatives issued a statement saying they were "shocked and dismayed" by the allegations made against their co-founder.
They wrote, "These allegations come as an utter surprise to the Board. Any suggestion that the Board had knowledge of this conduct is false."
POWER TENDS TO CORRUPT
Sociologists have generally arrived at the consensus view that sexual harassment and assault often have everything to do with the expression of power and often very little to do with sex.
That dynamic begins to explain both the reluctance to report incidents and the fear that many victimis report, especially when they believe their career or livelihood may be in jeopardy.
According to experts, the reports of Weinstein intimidating the press, sexually coercing women whose careers depend on him and much worse, all point to a common phenomenon, the concentration of power in one person and its gross misuse.
"Here is a man with a lot of power, who used that power in horrific ways," Laura Finley, professor of sociology and criminology at Barry University said of Weinstein. "Some men seem to think that once they've attained some power it gives them license to say and do whatever they want. And thats what we need to be talking about."
While Hollywood has become famous for the so-called "casting couch," where actors are essentially expected to do anything to get a role, and often that means sexual favors, the problem is hardly limited to central casting.
Some studies have shown that as many as one in three women has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, and very few report it. Another study found that as many as one in five respondents have witnessed sexual harassment in the workplace, and only one-third reported it.
"The most important thing is that we don't paint this as a Hollywood problem, because it is such a big problem outside of Hollywood too," Finley stressed. "The statistics show the frequency of these problems in pretty much any industry, any area ... the amount of harassment girls face in the streets or the workplace, it's just ridiculous."
Dr. Heather McLaughlin, sociologist at Oklahoma State University, noted that the type of harassment being exposed in the reports about Weinstein are "a larger part of an organizational culture."
"When someone is in a position of power and harasses women and nothing is done, then other people hear the message loud and clear, that this organization values Weinstein more than it values women," McLaughlin continued. "And this what power looks like."
As widespread as the problem of sexual harassment is, McLaughin acknowledged that it does have a unique expression and normalization in the film industry.
"There's this perfect storm of high levels of competition, job insecurity, the potential for lucrative careers and then there's this devaluation of women in other ways that persists," she explained.
The Weinstein scandal follows in a series of recent high-profile charges of sexual harassment against actor Bill Cosby, and Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly at Fox News. The level of dialogue about sexual harassment has also been elevated as a result of President Donald Trump's 2005 Access Hollywood tape, where he spoke candidly about grabbing and kissing women: "When you’re a star, they let you do it."
While some view the recent exposure as a positive step towards fixing the age-old problem, McLaughlin said there is still a long way to go.
"We have to look at the reason that this term 'casting couch' exists and talk about this culture and how common it is," she said. "How do we stop that, not just fire one person who gets caught."