Harvey Weinstein, in a desperate and ill-advised effort to get the sexual misconduct class action lawsuit against him thrown away, tried a classic Hollywood tactic: Name-dropping.
In his latest legal filing, the producer — an alleged sexual predator who scores of women claim harassed, abused, and assaulted them — cites Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence as examples of women who have stated publicly that their working relationships with him were respectful. He also refers to Gwyneth Paltrow by name, calling out the actress for “not [being] so offended that she refused to work with him” after she “was allegedly harassed” and feared she would be fired.
The class in the lawsuit, Weinstein’s filing claims, is too broad. It would have to include “all women who met with Weinstein” for an audition, meeting, or event with the Weinstein company, even just those “who may have met briefly with Weinstein but had no discernable communication with him except to say hello” (to say nothing, one supposes, of the potted plants who did not even say hi):
“As drafted, they would include all women who ever met with Weinstein, regardless of whether they claimed to have suffered any identifiable harm as a result of that meeting. Such women would include, presumably, Jennifer Lawrence, who told Oprah Winfrey she had known Weinstein since she was 20 years old and said ‘he had only ever been nice to me,’ and Meryl Streep, who stated publicly that Weinstein had always been respectful to her in their working relationship.”
It is true that Meryl Streep once called Harvey Weinstein “God.” That was in 2012 — ten thousand forevers ago — while she accepted her Golden Globe for The Iron Lady. Last fall, when heaps of women came forward to describe the sexual harassment and assault they experienced at Weinstein’s hands, Streep issued a statement in which she “clarified” that she did not know about the extent of Weinstein’s misconduct, writing that he was “exasperating but respectful with me in our working relationship, and with many others with whom he worked professionally.” This disclaimer aside, the thrust of Streep’s recent statement is that Weinstein’s “behavior is inexcusable.”
Likewise, Jennifer Lawrence released a statement about Weinstein to People last fall, saying “I was deeply disturbed to hear the news about Harvey Weinstein’s behavior. I worked with Harvey five years ago and I did not experience any form of harassment personally, nor did I know about any of these allegations. This kind of abuse is inexcusable and absolutely upsetting. My heart goes out to all of the women affected by these gross actions. And I want to thank them for their bravery to come forward.”
Streep and Lawrence were appalled to see their statements — which are obviously not intended to exculpate Weinstein, and in fact express clear solidarity with his accusers — remixed into a defense.
In a statement to Deadline, Streep said, “Harvey Weinstein’s attorneys use of my (true) statement — that he was not sexually transgressive or physically abusive in our business relationship — as evidence that he was not abusive with many OTHER women is pathetic and exploitive.”
Lawrence, for her part, issued a statement reaming out Weinstein’s team for “continuing to do what they have always done which is to take things out of context and use them for their own benefit.”
On Thursday, Weinstein apologized, promising his counsel will not use “specific names” again, “even where those actors have made previous public statements about him.” His apology (which is, as these apologies tend to be, rather underwhelming) “acknowledges the valuable input both Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence have contributed to this conversation.” Guess that no-naming-names thing starts tomorrow.
Unaddressed in Weinstein’s apology, though, is Gwyneth Paltrow — even though her name appears in a footnote in the filing as his counsel insinuates her allegations must be false, or she wouldn’t have continued to work with Weinstein after the incident she describes.
Paltrow was among the first women to come forward with her allegations in the New York Times, just days after the first story broke in the Weinstein investigation. Weinstein made sexual advances on Paltrow when she was 22 years old, she said, in his hotel suite. “I was a kid, I was signed up, I was petrified,” she told the Times. She told her then-boyfriend, Brad Pitt, about the encounter, and he in turn told Weinstein to stay away from Paltrow. But Weinstein, Paltrow said, warned her not to tell anyone else: “I thought he was going to fire me.”
Weinstein’s filing states that Paltrow was “allegedly harassed” during the 1994 filming of Emma but “went on to star in another Weinstein production — Shakespeare In Love— for which she won an Academy Award in 1998. Paltrow was not so offended that she refused to work with Weinstein again, nor did her career suffer as a result of her rebuffing his alleged advances.”
This is a popular strategy for discrediting accusers, deployed by everyone from Roger Ailes to Donald Trump: If I really was so terrible to you, why did you keep working for me? As if victims of sexual harassment or abuse have all the options in the world; as if they live in some alternate reality where repercussions for reporting on abusers are non-existent, where there is no risk of retaliation, no fear of reprisal.
As ThinkProgress has previously reported, a recent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report “found that only a very small sliver of victims say anything about it or take formal steps against abuse. Instead, the most common response is to keep the job and stay quiet.”
There are many reasons why victims of harassment and sexual violence continue to work with their abusers, the most obvious being that the alternative is to see a career sputter into nothing.
Several actresses, including Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino, have spoken publicly about how, after they rejected Weinstein’s come-ons, they found themselves blacklisted from the entertainment industry. Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson confirmed their accounts: he remembers Miramax, Weinstein’s production company, “telling us [Judd and Sorvino] were a nightmare to work with and we should avoid them at all costs.”
Alice Evans has said that Weinstein propositioned her just hours after her husband, Ioan Gruffudd, screen-tested for one of Weinstein’s films. Evans said that as she “extricated” herself from the “sinister” advances, “Harvey utters a phrase that has stayed with me forever. ‘Let’s hope it all works out for your boyfriend,’ he says… I was never again considered for a Weinstein film, and neither was Ioan.”
Paltrow has not yet commented Weinstein’s filing.