Clients Turn on ‘Champion for Women’ Lisa Bloom After Her Scorched-Earth Crusade for Harvey Weinstein
To some clients Lisa Bloom is a passionate advocate. Others claim she wants the spotlight on herself. And fighting for Harvey Weinstein may have damaged the Bloom brand forever.
Ronan Farrow was stunned and disgusted early this year when famed feminist lawyer Lisa Bloom phoned him, in the midst of his investigation for NBC News of widespread allegations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein, and offered to share opposition research on one of Weinstein’s accusers.
“I don’t know if you’ve talked to Rose McGowan, but we have files on her and her... history,” Bloom told Farrow, according to knowledgeable sources inside and outside NBC.
Farrow declined to comment for this story.
Bloom was referring to the star of the 1996 Weinstein-produced hit horror movie Scream, who had indeed given Farrow an on-camera interview (and later withdrew her participation out of fear of being sued for violating a non-disclosure agreement that had come with a $100,000 settlement from Weinstein); since then McGowan has alleged publicly that the movie mogul raped her at the Sundance Film Festival in 1997.
Bloom, citing attorney-client privilege, declined to comment on her interactions with Farrow on behalf of Weinstein.
“I don’t have any comment on anything related to Harvey Weinstein. I am not authorized to answer any further questions to any reporter about Harvey Weinstein,” Bloom told The Daily Beast, never mind that until last week, she had been voluble on the subject, telling BuzzFeed that her decision to aid the disgraced studio chief was “a colossal mistake” and lamenting to the Los Angeles Times, “I feel very bad, because so many people have said that they really looked up to me as this champion for women… and it’s hurtful to them. I’m sorry.”
It is extremely unusual, several lawyers told The Daily Beast, for an attorney to publicly quit a high-profile client, as Bloom did two weeks ago, and then repeatedly critique that client in the media.
The revelations around Weinstein’s private life would not have been wholly surprising to Bloom.
At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, according to prominent litigator Thomas Ajamie, Weinstein had boasted at a breakfast meeting of the sex he had had with Hollywood actresses. (The encounter is related in full at the end of this piece.)
“Look I’m a famous movie producer, everyone wants an Academy Award, I can really help their careers,” Weinstein reportedly told Bloom and Ajamie.
Bloom said to Weinstein, “Wait, wait, wait, Harvey, you’re married. Are you saying you had sex with these women while you were married?”
Weinstein responded, “Yes, Lisa, that’s exactly what I’m saying.”
To which Bloom responded, “But your wife [Georgina Chapman] doesn’t know?”
Weinstein replied, “No, I don’t tell her.” Bloom said, “You’re cheating on your wife, right?”
Weinstein said, “Well, yeah, Lisa, this is Hollywood and this is what happens.”
Bloom replied, “OK, I’m just a little taken aback by this. But I’m not judging you or anything. I’m not judging.”
In recent days Bloom, the daughter of feminist lawyer Gloria Allred, has been struggling desperately to salvage her carefully crafted—and now shattered—image as a crusader for women’s rights.
Especially damaging was a New York Times report that after the newspaper published its Oct. 5 blockbuster about the now-fired studio chief, Bloom had contacted the board of TWC, according to leaked emails, to suggest releasing “photos of several of the accusers in very friendly poses with Harvey after his alleged misconduct.”
Soon after her secretive role as one of Weinstein’s high-priced attorney/enablers was unmasked by the Times—but not before she attempted to rationalize her choice of clients (“As a woman’s rights advocate, I have been blunt with Harvey and he has listened to me,” she claimed. “I found Harvey to be refreshingly candid and receptive to my message”)—Bloom resigned with a flourish and embarked on a media apology tour amid a firestorm of condemnation.
McGowan, for one, was not impressed.
“Your very name makes my stomach clench with a stressed tightness that takes my breath away. As does your mercenary act of depravity,” the actress wrote on her Facebook page in an 1,100-word indictment of Bloom. “Did you think of how it would affect victims to see you champion a rapist? How it felt to those you once ‘fought for,’ for them to know that you used them. You remember them right? They were the victims of assaults, women you’d previously helped. You lied to those hurt women and hid your true character. You wanted a shortcut to fame.”
Even Bloom’s mother couldn’t resist taking a shot.
“Had I been asked by Mr. Weinstein to represent him, I would have declined, because I do not represent individuals accused of sex harassment,” Allred declared in a press release. “I only represent those who allege that they are victims of sexual harassment.”
Farrow was initially open-minded but wary of Bloom’s communications 10 months ago, according to people familiar with their contacts. The calls started when Bloom phoned him out of the blue early this year, ostensibly to offer leads for an investigation she heard he was pursuing for NBC News.
“I’ve heard you’re working on a story involving NDAs in Hollywood,” Bloom said, according to the sources. “I know a lot about that,” she added, mentioning that she could put Farrow in touch with several of her actress-clients including Angela White, aka the model and reality-television star Blac Chyna, who was preparing a tabloid-ready lawsuit against ex-fiancé Rob Kardashian and his notorious TV family.
Farrow, who didn’t take advantage of Bloom’s offers of help and began to suspect that she was simply trying to milk him for clues about his investigation, was initially tight-lipped concerning the real nature of his project, an exposé of Weinstein, which was eventually published by The New Yorker after NBC executives pulled the plug.
Bloom was equally unforthcoming. For weeks, she didn’t disclose to Farrow that she was hardly a disinterested party: She had been strategizing behind the scenes on Weinstein’s legal team’s behalf since the fall of 2016, according to a person with knowledge of the arrangement who spoke on condition of not being further identified.
Months before contacting Farrow in January, according to the same person, Bloom had worked to counter a New York magazine investigation of the movie mogul's misconduct that ended up not being published.
Farrow, himself an attorney and a member of the New York Bar, knew none of this when he ultimately acknowledged to Bloom that he was looking into Weinstein and swore her to secrecy, thinking he could count on their mutual respect for confidentiality as fellow officers of the court. After all, he had considered the self-styled civil-rights attorney, author, and ubiquitous cable TV guest a professional friend and ally.
Bloom had appeared more than once on his short-lived MSNBC show, Ronan Farrow Daily, and she had been a vocal defender of Farrow’s sister, Dylan, and his mother, Mia, in February 2014 when Dylan Farrow published an open letter in The New York Times alleging that Woody Allen had sexually assaulted her when she was 7 years old.
Yet no sooner had Farrow divulged to Bloom his interest in Weinstein than executives at NBC and Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency, Farrow’s professional representatives, began to receive a barrage of calls and letters, as the movie mogul (a longtime pal of NBC Universal Vice Chairman Ron Meyer and others at the company he’d done business with) sought to wield every ounce of leverage to stop Farrow’s investigation.
Weinstein attorney Charles Harder, Hulk Hogan’s former lawyer who famously helped bankrupt Gawker Media, was especially aggressive, threatening to sue Farrow personally, in what one recipient of Harder’s letters (which listed Bloom as his co-counsel) described as a campaign to discredit the messenger.
According to sources who have read them, the letters claimed Farrow was unfairly biased against Weinstein—and brainwashed—because of his own family history involving sexual-assault allegations.
After NBC shut him down in August, Farrow took the Weinstein project to The New Yorker. In a belligerent screed to the magazine, a demand letter which also listed famed litigator David Boies as co-counsel, Harder continued his onslaught on Farrow’s journalistic integrity.
The chagrined Boies, a longtime attorney for TWC but not for Harvey Weinstein personally, called New Yorker Editor in Chief David Remnick to dissociate himself from Harder’s overheated language.
According to sources familiar with their exchange, Boies told Remnick (who declined to comment) that he had advised Harder not to send such a letter—that a legitimate publication would not be intimidated or persuaded by a personal attack on one of its writers—and explained to Remnick that Boies’ only goal was to give Weinstein sufficient time to respond to the allegations against him.
Meanwhile, back in March, Hollywood trade publications and the Times had reported that Bloom’s 2014 book on the Trayvon Martin case had been optioned by The Weinstein Company for a television docu-series to be co-produced by JAY-Z.
“I’m one of Harvey’s people,” Bloom finally acknowledged to Farrow, who had already suspected as much.
In recent weeks, troubling questions have surfaced about Bloom’s practice as an attorney—notably her misleading attacks on public-radio host and Hollywood Reporter Editor at Large Kim Masters on behalf of a second wildly off-brand client, accused sexual harasser, and former Amazon Studios head Roy Price.
Bloom, along with her co-counsel Harder, aggressively tried to discredit Masters, whose reporting on Price’s sexual harassment of producer Isa Hackett ultimately forced Price’s resignation on Oct. 17.
Despite being advised that her assertions were false, Bloom repeatedly claimed to a series of media outlets that considered publishing Masters’ story about Price’s alleged misconduct that the respected journalist had tried to shake down her client for advertising money for her weekly radio show, The Business. (The Daily Beast considered publishing Masters’ story about Price.)
A brief exchange of emails between Masters, Price, and Amazon Studios public-relations executive Vicky Eguia in late January and late February of 2017, well before Masters commenced her investigation, shows that Masters was simply trying to book guests involved with Amazon Studios film and television projects for interviews on her radio program.
In other words, she was doing her job.
Yet, in emails to editors at The Hollywood Reporter, Bloom repeatedly accused Masters of unethical behavior and conflicts of interest, suggesting the journalist was vindictively going after Price because he didn’t financially support her radio program.
“Bloom claimed to have smoking-gun evidence, but she could not produce any, because there was none,” said Masters (who, full disclosure, is a longtime friend and colleague of this reporter). “I thought it was pretty reprehensible.”
Bloom declined to comment on her representation of the disgraced Price, who in July 2015, during a business trip to San Diego, allegedly propositioned Hackett, the executive producer of Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle and the daughter of the late Philip K. Dick, whose novel inspired the series.
“You will love my dick,” Price allegedly told Hackett, a married lesbian with children, while whispering in her ear, “Anal sex!”
Several unhappy former Bloom clients such as comedian Kathy Griffin, former Fox News commentator Tamara Holder, and others have come forward to claim that the lawyer seems more interested in scoring big paydays, going on television, and mingling with celebrities than in toiling on the feminist and civil-rights causes that first brought her to public attention.
After Holder formally complained last fall to Fox News that Fox News Latino Vice President Francisco Cortes had sexually assaulted her in February 2015—trapping her in his office and trying to force her to perform oral sex before she escaped—Bloom led a legal team that ultimately won Holder a settlement reportedly approaching $3 million along with Fox News’ public acknowledgement of the alleged incident, including the firing of Cortes (who is now suing Fox for $48 million).
Bloom, whose initial retainer agreement with Holder called for her to take an unusually high 40 percent of the total—plus a $10,000 non-refundable fee, and various expenses including hotels and first- or business-class airplane seats “at our election”—ultimately agreed to take one-third.
Gloria Allred, whom Holder also considered hiring, would only have taken her cut on an amount above the $300,000 that Fox News had already offered Holder as a severance payment. Allred’s daughter, on the other hand, included the severance money in her portion.
Holder, herself an attorney, had a fraught relationship with Bloom, as did Holder’s business manager Michael Sanchez. Holder objected when Bloom suggested she fly to Los Angeles to hold a press conference, even though Holder lived in New York, where the alleged assault occurred.
She was further irked after Bloom left an important New York mediation session on Jan. 19 that Holder was paying for, in order to catch a train to Washington for the women’s march protesting Donald Trump’s inauguration, and again, in mid-February, when she departed for an African adventure with her husband, Braden Pollock.
The result, Holder argued, was thousands of dollars in unnecessary expenses for her as the mediation process dragged on and what she considered sloppy lawyering.
Holder said Bloom was so focused on receiving her own nearly million-dollar payout that she pressured her client to sign an agreement that would have required strict non-disclosure of the sexual assault, when, from the beginning, Holder had made clear that she had already spoken to The New York Times and Wall Street Journal about the incident, before she hired Bloom, and public disclosure of the Fox News culture was far more important to her than money.
Bloom essentially fired Holder as a client in March after an acrimonious exchange of emails and angry phone calls.
Bloom declined to respond to Holder’s complaints on the record, but Sanchez, who is not a lawyer and thus not bound by attorney-client confidentiality, stoutly defended Bloom in an email to The Daily Beast.
“Lisa was Tamara’s hardworking champion throughout the process. This was no slam dunk and took a huge amount of effort from Lisa and me, including many weekends and all-nighters. In the end, the New York Times reported that we secured a multimillion-dollar financial settlement, including Fox News’ unprecedented public statement acknowledging her sexual assault.
“This was far beyond Tamara’s expectations, especially when you consider she was ‘this close’ to signing a $300,000 settlement with iron-clad confidentiality prior to our representation. Bottom line: I question the priorities of someone who just won a huge, unprecedented, public victory, and instead of focusing on her abusers and helping other victims, she attacks the attorney who fought so hard to secure her victory.”
However, Sanchez’s full-throated endorsement of Bloom contradicts comments he made in emails to Bloom’s client, provided to The Daily Beast by Holder.
On March 2, Sanchez wrote: “We are going to use Lisa Bloom’s cowardice to elevate you and destroy her. I will thank God until the day I die for her greed and all of the emails we have!!!!!”
On March 1, Sanchez wrote: “You won… It is unprecedented and remarkable, even if grandstanding egomaniac negligent coward Lisa Bloom rained on our parade.”
“I don’t have a dog in this fight,” Sanchez told The Daily Beast by email. “My respect for Lisa Bloom, before I put her and Tamara together, was real. Today, my respect for Lisa, personally and professionally, is greater than ever. Trust me, it would be a huge mistake to cherry-pick things I said about anyone at a moment in time when I was angry at them, especially from emails leaked to a reporter.”
Fox News contributor Jehmu Greene, a longtime Democratic operative and former Rock the Vote president, briefly considered hiring Bloom in April as Bill O’Reilly’s sexual-misconduct scandal was heating up.
Greene, an African American who’d had her own unpleasant encounters with the Fox News star (he’d told her to show more cleavage on the air, and lewdly suggested that he’d like to, as she put it, “break my back”), recalled that she was weighing going public with her O’Reilly experiences, and contacted Bloom at the suggestion of a New York Times reporter who advised that having Bloom as her attorney would enhance her credibility.
At a two-hour-long breakfast meeting at the Grey Dog coffee shop in Manhattan’s West Village, Greene recalled, they discussed how Bloom could help her as an attorney, and Bloom “was eager, very available and very persistent”; the lawyer pressed Greene to sign an agreement (which Bloom let her skim on her iPhone) which called for Bloom to exercise total control over Greene’s media interviews, and to receive one-third of any income she earned from telling her story.
“Why would I give you a percentage of anything I got from me telling my story? Why do I need a media representative? I am in the media,” Greene recalls telling Bloom, who quickly agreed to remove the money clause from Greene’s draft of the agreement, which—much to Greene’s surprise—covered only media representation, not legal services.
“I was really turned off by just how deceptive she was being,” said Greene, who didn’t hire Bloom. “Her whole presentation was from a legal-representation standpoint, and then she sent me over a draft agreement that basically says ‘I’m not representing you legally, I’m your media representative.’… It was like I was dealing with a predator—and she is doing this in the environment of sexual assault and harassment to women who are vulnerable? Wow.” Greene added: “It’s greedy. Just greedy.”
The Daily Beast provided Bloom with a detailed summary of these criticisms. With the exception of Griffin, who gave The Daily Beast a lengthy account of her unhappy experience with Bloom after hiring the lawyer to help her navigate last summer’s Donald Trump/severed-head controversy, Bloom has declined to address the specific complaints of ex-clients.
Instead she offered a general defense of her record.
“As a lawyer for the last 31 years (litigating for 23), I have fought hard for many men and women, mostly ordinary people in discrimination and harassment cases against powerful entities,” wrote Bloom, whose eponymous law firm boasts nearly a dozen lawyers. “Most of my clients come to me in great distress. We treat them with sensitivity and fight their cases aggressively.
“Opponents who receive my firm’s letters and phone calls are often not pleased with us,” Bloom continued in an email. “Litigators don’t win popularity contests. But the vast majority of our clients are delighted with our work and the tremendous victories we achieve in case after case. They send me beautiful thank you notes, and refer their friends and family to us.”
Bloom also provided a list of some of her “happy clients,” one of whom is Nathalie Gosset, who—after complaining that her boss was sexually harassing her—was fired from her senior position at the University of Southern California’s Alfred E. Mann Institute for Biomedical Engineering.
“My experience with Lisa is of an expert attorney who uses her life for the greater good of promoting /defending women’s rights,” Gossett emailed. “My story illustrates this as I am not a celeb. The legal journey is arduous with no sensational dimensions, and the fight is against a Goliath university that enforces the secrecy of arbitration. Lisa is a hero in my book.”
Another satisfied customer is Blac Chyna, who—after berating this reporter for several minutes for failing to say “good morning” to her (“It’s mean, malicious, and rude,” she argued. “Apologize to yourself!”)—said this about Bloom: “I respect her. She’s, like, the best lawyer. She’s respectful, kindful [sic], tasteful—anything that you can positively expect from a person.”
When Ajamie met with Bloom and Harvey Weinstein during this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Bloom was nothing if not diplomatic, according to Ajamie’s account.
Ajamie had recently completed a damning confidential report to the board of amFAR concerning Weinstein’s use of the AIDS charity in a byzantine scheme to funnel $600,000 to himself and other investors in the Broadway-bound Finding Neverland.
The Houston lawyer was understandably reluctant to have breakfast with the mogul, who had somehow gotten a copy of the report and was also angry that he’d heard that Ajamie had been asking questions about allegations of sexual misconduct.
Unaware of Bloom’s under-the-radar relationship with Weinstein, Ajamie recalled that he’d reached out to her in late 2016 to ask if she’d ever heard about such things; he recalled that she said she hadn’t, but would he please keep her informed. At the time she told Ajamie that she’d never met Weinstein.
The two lawyers developed a friendship, and Ajamie, a patron of the arts in Houston and a regular at the film festival, invited Bloom and her husband to be his guests at his Park City, Utah, condo.
In the end, Ajamie said Bloom had accompanied him to Weinstein’s suite at the Main & Sky hotel.
Over a two-hour breakfast, at which Ajamie said Bloom mostly listened, Weinstein alternated between venting angrily at Ajamie (“Whatever you do, don’t fuck with my art—I’m so passionate about my art”) and reminiscing about his upbringing, his late mother Miriam, and his love of film.
At one point the conversation became particularly heated, Ajamie recalled, and Bloom chimed in: “OK guys, I think what we really need here is some type of mediation between you two, and I’ll be very glad to be a mediator, because you both seem to have some issues with one another, and I think it would be very constructive if we worked this out in a very civilized way. You guys are both pretty good guys. You’re just seeing things differently, you have different perspectives on the world.”
But Bloom seemed especially focused when Weinstein started listing the various actresses he claimed to have had sex with. “Look I’m a famous movie producer, everyone wants an Academy Award, I can really help their careers,” Ajamie recalled Weinstein boasting.
According to Ajamie, Bloom jumped in, saying, “Wait, wait, wait, Harvey, you’re married. Are you saying you had sex with these women while you were married?”
Weinstein responded, “Yes, Lisa, that’s exactly what I’m saying.” To which Bloom responded, “But your wife doesn’t know?”
Weinstein said, “No, I don’t tell her.”
Bloom said, “You’re cheating on your wife, right?”
Weinstein said, “Well, yeah, Lisa, this is Hollywood and this is what happens.”
Bloom said, “OK, I’m just a little taken aback by this. But I’m not judging you or anything. I’m not judging.”
Given this account, Bloom told The Daily Beast, “I have no comment on Tom Ajamie.”
A representative for Weinstein has yet to respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast.
UPDATE 11:32 a.m.: This story has been edited to clarify Lisa Bloom’s comments to Ronan Farrow and impact on a New York magazine story.