Weinstein on 'indefinite leave' as company probes sexual harassment allegations
Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was taking an "indefinite leave" of absence as co-chairman of the Weinstein Co film production company during an internal investigation into allegations of sexual harassment reported by The New York Times.
The Weinstein Company board of representatives said in a statement that it is taking "extremely seriously" allegations made in the Times report that Weinstein had reached private settlements with at least eight women who accused him of unwanted physical contact and sexual harassment over three decades.
The company said it was "essential" to ensure "that all women who work for it or have any dealings with it or any of our executives are treated with respect and have no experience of harassment or discrimination."
Weinstein, 65, will take an indefinite leave of absence, the company said.
The company's announcement comes after Weinstein himself issued an apology and said that he had hired therapists and planned to take a leave of absence "to deal with this issue head on."
"I appreciate the way I've behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it," the movie mogul said in a statement to the Times after its damning story was published.
The staunch Democrat who backed Hillary Clinton in her presidential bid said that he respected all women and was hoping for a second chance although he knew he had "work to do to earn it."
The Democratic National Committee (DNC), meanwhile, said that all of Weinstein's political donations would be re-routed to women's rights groups.
“The DNC will donate over $30,000 in contributions from Weinstein to EMILY’s List, Emerge America and Higher Heights because what we need is more women in power,” DNC communications director Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement.
Lisa Bloom, one of Weinstein's lawyers who specializes in sexual harassment cases, separately said in a statement sent to AFP that her 65-year-old client "denies many of the accusations as patently false."
Another attorney, Charles Harder, said his firm was planning to sue the New York Times over their story, claiming it was "saturated with false and defamatory statements."
- 'Conquer my demons' -
His accusers, the Times said, were mainly young women hoping to break into the film industry and include celebrities such as actresses Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd.
Judd recalled in an interview with the paper being invited to Weinstein's suite at a posh Beverly Hills hotel two decades ago expecting a breakfast meeting to discuss business.
Instead, the actress said, Weinstein appeared in a bathrobe and asked if she could give him a massage or watch him shower.
Two former assistants and an Italian model made similar accusations and allegedly reached settlements.
In his statement, Weinstein said he had been working over the past year with Bloom and a team of therapists "to learn about myself and conquer my demons."
"I have goals that are now priorities," he said. "Trust me, this isn't an overnight process.
"I've been trying to do this for 10 years and this is a wake-up call."
He appeared to justify his alleged misconduct saying he had come of age in the '60s and '70s "when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different."
"That was the culture then," he said. "I have since learned it's not an excuse, in the office -- or out of it. To anyone."
He said one year ago he began organizing a $5 million foundation to provide scholarships to women directors at the University of Southern California.
"It will be named after my mom and I won't disappoint her," he said.
Weinstein, who is married to English fashion designer Georgina Chapman, with whom he has two children, is considered a powerhouse in Hollywood and many of his movies have picked up Oscars over the years, including "Good Will Hunting," and "The Artist."
He formed the Miramax production house in the late 1970s with his brother and then sold it to Disney. The pair went on to create The Weinstein Company, producing such hits as "The King's Speech," "The Butler," and "Django Unchained."
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A symbol of the liberal democrats. Hypocrisy only hypocrisy.