The most certain way to shift an unwanted spotlight is to provide something else for it to shine on. To this end, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck seem to be on something of an apology tour, doing their level best to pin themselves to news not at all related to how unconvincing their behavior has been in the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s downfall. Unfortunately, it’s doing nothing but drawing more attention to their hypocrisy.
Both of the actors benefited from their connections to Weinstein, and seem to be complicit in the institution that made him so powerful. Affleck’s past behavior is telling; he groped (and only just recently apologized to) actress Hilarie Burton during a 2003 MTV appearance, and took days to condemn Weinstein despite how closely they’d worked together. Then there’s the continued vaunting of his brother, Casey Affleck, the subject of multiple sexual harassment allegations. And Rose McGowan has alleged that Ben knew all about Weinstein’s behavior. “Goddamnit! I told him to stop doing that,” she claims he told her at a “press [conference] I was made to go to after [the] assault.” She added, “You lie.”
Damon, meanwhile, was accused of helping kill a 2004 story about Weinstein, though he later denied knowing the story was about sexual assault and also issued his own statement denouncing the ex-mogul’s behavior, saying, “as the father of four daughters, this is the kind of sexual predation that keeps me up at night.” On the press tour promoting Suburbicon this week, he admitted that he’d found out long ago that Weinstein had harassed Gwyneth Paltrow from Affleck, saying, “I knew that they had come to whatever, you know, agreement or understanding that they had come to, she had handled it. She was, you know, the first lady of Miramax. And he treated her incredibly respectfully always.” He also said that he’d known that Weinstein was a “womanizer,” though he hadn’t understood the extent to which Weinstein had been a predator.
Given the backlash against them, it’s unsurprising that these stars are doing all they can to try to mitigate it. People magazine published a suspiciously-timed article on Affleck last week focused entirely on his adoption of a new puppy. (The mind-boggling headline: “Ben Affleck Takes in Adorable Stray Puppy, Melts Hearts.”) Damon, meanwhile, has been milking his ongoing “feud” with Jimmy Kimmel for all that it’s worth, appearing on the show just after issuing his first statement on Weinstein, and showing up once again now that the discussion has escalated.
Both feel like bald attempts at altering the discussion, and have produced more negative press about the stars than not. As Weinstein’s fall has made clear, distraction and cover-ups aren’t the way to go, and half-apologies aren’t enough. Damon, at least, is still a part of the discussion. Affleck, by contrast, has been relatively silent, issuing a statement and then an apology but then providing no further comment. It’s especially strange in light of McGowan’s accusation, and points to bigger problems in the system that have yet to be confronted — and not by puppies or manufactured feuds.