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Via America’s Lawyer: Mike Papantonio and Brigida Santos talk about how and why sexual predatory abuse in Hollywood went on for so long with Harvey Weinstein.

Transcription:

Mike:
Just a few weeks ago the name Harvey Weinstein wasn’t even close to being a household name even though he had been a major Hollywood player since the 1980s. Weinstein was a film producer and a studio executive who co-founded Miramax and later formed the Weinstein Company. Weinstein had worked on films like Pulp Fiction and The English Patient and Good Will Hunting and during this time not many people outside of Hollywood even knew or cared who Weinstein was. But then on October 5th, the New York Times ran a massive investigative piece on the years of sexual assault carried out by Weinstein. The piece quickly went viral and forced Weinstein to be removed from the company that he founded. One of the women who came forward with the allegations of inappropriate behavior was about Weinstein was Ashley Judd.

According to interviews, Judd said that nearly 20 years ago Weinstein had invited her over to his hotel for what she believed would be an early morning meeting. Instead, she was sent to his private room where he asked if she would watch him take a shower. Really. Judd said she wanted to leave the room quickly but in a manner that wouldn’t put her on Weinstein’s bad side, I suppose, and prevent her from getting work in the future, she had to play it cool.

The New York Times reports that other woman ranging from actresses to studio employees were propositioned by Weinstein. They claimed that he promised to help further their careers if they’d only give into his sexual assaults. These stories were corroborated by internal emails, documents and witness accounts stretching as far back as 30 years. All of them paint Weinstein as a pathetic, piggish predator who Hollywood was more than willing to protect from prosecution and civil suits. During this same time period, Weinstein had quietly reached settlements for sexual harassment and abuse of at least eight different women. In 2015, a sting operation was set up in New York after a young model told police about Weinstein’s aggressive advances towards her. The police did everything they could to gather evidence against Weinstein and sent it to the district attorney’s office. But that’s far from where the case went. Nobody wanted to touch Harvey due to his powerful political connections, including New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. But he had also pumped million of dollars into the Democratic party ranging from the pockets of the Clintons to the Obamas.

For 30 years, Weinstein operated unencumbered, approaching women who were desperate to further their careers and he paid them off and he threatened them if they talked about what he had done to them. For 30 years, very credible stories swirled in Hollywood’s elite circles about Weinstein’s behavior and yet no one came forward to prevent this sexual pervert from attempting to destroy the lives of young women. This situation is one that could have easily been fixed decades ago if just a few of these women had had a little support from their Hollywood peers.

Joining me now for more on this story is RT America correspondent Brigida Santos. Brigida, how far back do these allegations stretch and who are some of the women who have come forward? We’ve been following this story a couple of weeks now but every day there’s some new iteration. This is a story that’s not going to go away, should not go away until we figure out all the moving parts. What’s your take?

Brigida Santos:
Mike, as you said, these allegations have been going as far back as 30 years and dozens of women have come forward. In fact, far too many to name but among the most notable are Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Beckinsale, Angelina Jolie, Rosanna Arquette, Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan. The allegations include unwanted sexual advances, groping, harassment, sexual assault and even rape. Allegations that have been brought forward by at least four women, including Rose McGowan. Also, the Italian actress, Asia Argento. Mike, so many women here.

Mike:
Brigida, you’ve covered these stories before, you’ve done a really good job getting down to the basics of what happened. In this story though, so many people knew. As a matter of fact, people don’t realize this, this was actually built into his contract. Where in the contract they had what they called liquidated damaged clauses to where, yeah, ole Harvey, he may commit some type of atrocious act on women but we’ve agreed in advance to pay $250,000 or 500,000 or even a million dollars depending on how bad that advance was. So how do you keep these allegations a secret for so long without the help of producers and agents and people working in the studio, other actors that knew darn well what was going on and refused to say anything about it. How do you keep this a secret?

Brigida Santos:
As you said, in Hollywood actually, in the industry, the entertainment industry, this is not a secret. In fact, it is common knowledge that Harvey Weinstein is a predator and that he preys on women. But he is the co-founder of Miramax and the Weinstein Company which are two of the biggest film production and distribution companies in the world. He’s the person that people thank when they win their Oscars. He’s not the person that people want to piss off because he does hold the keys to so many jobs. Production jobs, writing jobs, acting jobs. The whole industry is very afraid of him. In fact, at least 16 of his coworkers say that they had knowledge or had witnessed these crimes that women say that he has committed against them and yet they said that they did not want to come forward out of fear. The fear of losing their jobs. And also, people who did come forward say that they were intimidated. One person even said that they believe Harvey Weinstein smeared them in the tabloids just because they tried to call him out for this.

Mike:
I’m curious, even the unions, these actors and the folks that work on these movies, they have a union. The union knew what was going on. The producers knew what was going on. The agents knew what was going on. And not one person had enough courage, if they would’ve all gotten together and said, “You know what? This guy is a piggish, ugly predator and we have to stop this now because if we don’t stop it with Harvey, there’s going to be another and another.” I guess, what the reason that I’m so infuriated about it, is women are being blamed for not coming forward. These are women that all they needed was a little bit of support, somebody to say, “Yeah, you do this Ashley and we’ll support you in this.” What is your take on that? Did any of these women attempt to come forward and warn the public about how dangerous this man was?

Brigida Santos:
Women did reportedly come forward. In fact, several women reportedly settled with him which means that they were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements as terms of those agreements. They also had payoffs and legal threats that were used by their PR and legal teams which created these campaigns to suppress the truth from coming out. Women warned other women in the industry against Weinstein. In fact, the actress Jessica Chastain says that she had long heard about allegations against him and that she was careful. Rose McGowan says that she tried to warn Amazon Studios not to work with Harvey Weinstein. Now she just openly admitted this week that Harvey Weinstein indeed, is the studio executive who had raped her. She had not publicly disclosed who the person was because of those non-disclosure agreements. This is a problem in Hollywood, it’s an industry that is known for creating the casting couch in which women are expected to exchange sexual favors with the men in charge in order to get roles in the film industry, Mike. It’s a deep seated problem.

Mike:
Brigida, the problem is, don’t you see, this bleeds out to other parts of our culture and our society.

Brigida Santos:
Absolutely.

Mike:
Like I said in the open, Hollywood is far from gold and glitter. If you really start digging, there are some ugly, ugly stories. At some point, we start seeing a pattern. Prosecutors, for example, prosecutors look for a pattern of behavior and they start asking questions. There was clear, clear pattern here, even all the way to the prosecutors in New York City. They had all, I gotta tell you, I was an ex-prosecutor, they had all they needed to prosecute this pathetic predator. Talk about patterns that you would say are important in this case.

Brigida Santos:
In this case, most of the women do have the same story. They say that they were lured to Harvey Weinstein’s hotel rooms either by him or people on his teams under the false pretenses of a professional meeting and many of the women share the same story. They say that when they arrived he appeared in front of them in wearing a bathrobe and then ask them to give him a massage. There are clear patterns here and I imagine that in the coming weeks we’re going to see a lot people start opening their mouths and coming forward and explaining some of the things that he’s done.

Mike:
I’m okay with that because sometimes it takes everybody joining together to find that courage but when I think back on this, all it took was a handful of people supporting these women that were fighting for their career. These are people starting from kids that wanted to act. They wanted to be able to have a job just like everybody else and this pig gets in their way and actually intentionally interferes with their career if they don’t play his game.

Look, let me ask you something. I can’t get away from this, I hear Hillary Clinton saying, “Oh, this is terrible, this is terrible.” Hillary Clinton, how does Hillary Clinton talk about this issue when she’s got this white elephant sitting in her living room with Bill? If you think about it was Hillary Clinton that was at the front of the charge that went after Lewinski. When Lewinski, they victimized Lewinski. She helped lead that charge. Don’t you have problems with all the ironies that are coming out of this story, Brigida? What is your take? Am I overreacting to that? Because it’s really bothered me when I listen to what she has to say about how horrible Harvey Weinstein is. All she has to do is look across the bedroom floor. What’s your take?

Brigida Santos:
Exactly. And actually, Harvey Weinstein was a huge defender of Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and in fact, Hillary Clinton has gotten numerous donations from Harvey Weinstein. In fact, he’s donated personally up to $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation, he also hosted a massive fundraiser for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign in which she earned millions of dollars in contributions from the Hollywood industry. Again, this does go back to our culture. We live in a culture where women come forward and other women shame them and everybody turns away from the accuser and instead celebrates the man that’s doing the harm to these women.

Mike:
Brigida, I hope you’ll follow this story. I’m not going to let this one go because I think this has more to do than a two week story. This has a lot more to do than just Hollywood but Hollywood is the pit that this story at least, is emerging and it’s going to have a lot of tentacles out everywhere.

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Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.