Harvey Weinstein: Hollywood’s Shield?

Harvey Weinstein at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in 2010 (Reuters photo: Danny Moloshok)
Many in Hollywood should think carefully before casting the first stone.

‘If that’s Hollywood’s idea of being a woman,” Maureen O’Hara once said, “I’m ready to quit now.” The Irish beauty, and star of The Quiet Man, told The Mirror in 1945, “Because I don’t let the producer and director kiss me every morning or let them paw me, they have spread word around town that I am not a woman — that I am a cold piece of marble statuary.”

No doubt O’Hara would have had a thing or two to say about Harvey Weinstein, the former movie mogul, who was convicted of a first-degree criminal sexual act and third-degree rape. More than 90 women brought forward allegations of rape, sexual assault, and harassment spanning decades, and — last week — Weinstein was tried and found guilty of having sexually assaulted his British production assistant in 2006 and of raping an American actress in 2013. Weinstein’s lawyers maintained his innocence throughout the trial, and he “unequivocally denied” having partaken in “nonconsensual” sexual activity, but the jury disagreed.

The liberal establishment are determined to sacrifice Weinstein for their collective sins. Yet the implications of the Weinstein case are not quite as straightforward as they might seem.

After his initial disgrace, Harvard University stripped Weinstein of the W. E. B. Du Bois medal it had afforded him in 2014, and the British Film Institute withdrew its fellowship from 2002. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts also terminated his membership. And, in an “unprecedented” step, the Producers Guild of America implemented a lifelong ban, explaining their abhorrence at his “reprehensible” conduct. But why didn’t these leading lights raise the alarm about Weinstein sooner? As with Jeffrey Epstein, countless powerful people in Hollywood must have known very well what he was up to. How many behaved similarly?

Ricky Gervais, in his controversial Golden Globes address, alluded to this uncomfortable reality:

Talking of all you perverts, tonight isn’t just about the people in front of the camera. In this room are some of the most important TV and film executives in the world. People from every background. They all have one thing in common: They’re all terrified of Ronan Farrow. He’s coming for you.

Farrow, the son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen, won the Pulitzer Prize for his 2017 New Yorker articles on Weinstein. “Too few people were willing to speak, much less allow a reporter to use their names, and Weinstein and his associates used nondisclosure agreements, payoffs, and legal threats to suppress their accounts,” Farrow wrote.

But while this is plausible, it is also — in isolation — an oversimplification. Many rich and influential people who could have spoken up chose not to do so; raising their voices would have cost them too much. Speaking now, by contrast, has never been cheaper and easier. Kill Bill actress Uma Thurman sent out a Thanksgiving message in which she attacked Weinstein “and all his wicked conspirators.” George Clooney and Matt Damon also spoke out, saying that this is the “moment to believe women” — which is a ridiculous generalization. Some men trade on their power in order to get sex. But some women also use their sexuality to gain power. The specific facts of each case matter.

No woman should be forced into sexually compromising herself for a job. Maureen O’Hara said as much nearly 70 years ago. But since then, the sordid Hollywood cesspool has, what with today’s porn culture, only worsened. While on one level the Weinstein affair is the tale of a tyrant brought low, many in Hollywood should think carefully before casting the first stone.

Madeleine Kearns is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute. She is from Glasgow, Scotland, and is a trained singer.

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