Before Harvey Weinstein was fired, he sent one last, desperate Hail Mary to his bros.
For maybe the only time in the decades the studio juggernaut’s predatory behavior and sexual harassment was a so-called “open secret” in Hollywood, those colleagues didn’t come through. Instead of turning their backs on Weinstein’s behavior, they finally refused to let him be absolved of the consequences.
It was reported Monday afternoon that in the hours before he was fired from The Weinstein Company in the aftermath of a bombshell New York Times report detailing decades of allegations of sexual misconduct, Weinstein sent an email to major Hollywood CEOs and moguls begging them to write letters to the company’s board of directors on his behalf in order to save his job.
A transcript of the letter was posted on Twitter Monday by Janice Min, the former editor and current part owner of The Hollywood Reporter. Min said the email, as she posted it, was read to her by a “disgusted (male) recipient.”
“My board is thinking of firing me,” the email allegedly from Weinstein began; we have not seen a copy of the email ourselves. “All I’m asking, is let me take a leave of absence and get into heavy therapy and counseling. Whether it be in a facility or somewhere else, allow me to resurrect myself with a second chance. A lot of the allegations are false as you know but given therapy and counseling as other people have done, I think I’d be able to get there.”
As Weinstein is referring to in that paragraph and as the Times originally reported, Weinstein’s initial plan in response to the public revelation of his harassment settlements was to “work with therapists” and “take a leave of absence to ‘deal with this issue head on.’” It was 48 hours later and amid a media fury that the board of directors voted to remove from his position.
The letter as Min posted it continues, “I could really use your support or just your honesty if you can’t support me.”
“But if you can, I need you to send a letter to my private gmail address,” the last paragraph reads. “The letter would only go to the board and no one else. We believe what the board is trying to do is not only wrong but might be illegal and would destroy the company. If you could write this letter backing me, getting me the help and time away I need, and also stating your opposition to the board firing me, it would help me a lot. I am desperate for your help. Just give me the time to have therapy. Do not let me be fired. If the industry supports me, that is all I need.”
The final line: “With all due, respect, I need the letter today.”
Min has also confirmed that among those who said no to Weinstein’s request were Ron Meyer, David Zaslav, and Jeffrey Katzenberg. It is unclear how many more people Weinstein apparently reached out to and if anyone actually wrote a letter; if they did, it clearly did not sway the board.
It is more likely, we think, that especially amid the groundswell of outrage in response to the Times piece, they reacted in the same way as Min’s informant: disgusted.
At the very least, that’s the reaction thus far on social media as Min’s tweet about the letter has begun making the rounds: Disbelief and disgust that, as the consequences loomed after three decades of abuse of power, Weinstein attempted to wield his rank one more time to save his career.
Of course, maybe it is not surprising that Weinstein may have thought a last-ditch attempt to cash in on industry connections and influence would have worked.
As the story has developed in the days since the Times’s Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey published their initial piece, a dizzying array of details have surfaced not only from other women who have come forward to say that they, too, were victims of Weinstein’s harassment, but also anecdotes from other journalists who had pursued the Weinstein story in the past.
Those stories never made it to publishing for one reason or another, and one of those reasons typically included Weinstein’s influence.
Entertainment journalist Kim Masters detailed in The Hollywood Reporter how, as recently as last November, she had been trying to break the “Big Story that everyone who covered the entertainment industry knew was out there if only it somehow could be gotten on the record.”
There are two glaring anecdotes in the piece. One insinuates an explosive reaction when she first met Weinstein at an off-the-record luncheon and told him that she would like to talk to him about what she’s heard about him and women.
The other recalls when Nicole Kidman interrupted a conversation she and Weinstein were having at a press event for Lion. “This is Kim Masters,” Weinstein said, introducing her. “She’s been trying to get me for years.” She replied, “Yes. And I still am.”
“I think Kidman said something like, ‘Oh, my,’ and I suspected, but did not know, that she had an inkling what the subtext might have been,” Masters writes. The subtext was always there, Masters continues. But in decades of reporting, after hearing dozens of stories and whispers and tales of celebrities abused and executives who have heard about his behavior, “it was maddeningly, infuriatingly impossible to pin down anything in any form that could make it into print.”
In other words, and again: Power.
Masters’ frustrations trying to report out the story echoes that of The Wrap founder and CEO Sharon Waxman, who wrote Monday about her own efforts to get a story published about Weinstein’s behavior 13 years ago for The New York Times.
Waxman had reported on an executive at Weinstein’s Miramax Italy whose primary role, it was rumored, was “to take care of Weinstein’s women needs.” The Times spiked the story, Waxman says, after pressure from Weinstein, whose company was a big advertiser for the paper—including having Matt Damon and Russell Crowe call her to vouch for the Italian executive.
The credibility of Waxman’s story has been brought to light by a former Times editor, and Waxman has responded in kind in defense of her reporting and why she hasn’t continued to pursue the story since.
As Variety’s Maureen Ryan commented, it’s an exasperating conversation in a circle: “’The media should be responsible and thorough!’ ‘We can’t confirm story X, no one will go on the record.’ ‘WHY DIDN’T YOU WRITE THAT STORY??!’”
In fact, the reaction to most of the people—especially women—who have spoken out now that the Weinstein whispers are a public outcry has been wondering why actresses condemning Weinstein now hadn’t spoken out before, and disbelieving their claims that they were unaware of his misconduct.
It’s a misogynistic double standard that once again ignores power. The power of silencing, and the power to save one’s own ass.
Weinstein tried to do just that again a final time. There’s a long—depressingly long—way to go in rehabbing an entertainment industry that institutionally fostered Weinstein’s behavior. But at least one executive’s response to Weinstein’s letter, as reported by Min, is an encouraging step in the right direction: “no f-ing chance.”