In an interview with Megyn Kelly that aired Thursday morning, Pamela Anderson was the latest celebrity to be asked about sexual misconduct in Hollywood—and, sadly, the latest to offer a problematic take.
The former Baywatch actress provoked a series of cringes as she spoke about the spate of graphic and horrific allegations being made against some of the industry’s most powerful men. In her comments, she appeared to assign part of the blame on the women involved in these encounters.
“It was common knowledge that certain producers or certain people in Hollywood or people to avoid, privately,” she told Kelly. “You know what you’re getting into if you’re going into a hotel room alone.”
The interview covered her experience speaking out as a victim of childhood sexual abuse, her own confrontation with an aggressive Harvey Weinstein, and the current conversations about power and sexual predation in the industry.
Part two will air on Friday, and will discuss what Kelly characterizes as Anderson’s “special relationship” with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has sought asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London while dodging sexual assault allegations in Sweden—which certainly adds another complicated layer to Anderson’s already concerning comments.
Anderson’s repeated assertions that many of the women who have come forward in recent weeks should have known better underline the actress’s complicated status as an advocate for survivors of sexual abuse.
In a 2014 speech at an event for her Pamela Anderson Foundation, Anderson revealed that she was assaulted by a female babysitter when she was 6 years old, by an older man in his twenties when she was 12, and by a boyfriend and his friends when she was 14. When asked about it in the years since, she’s told interviewers that one thing she’s learned about her experience and that she wants to share with others who have endured similar traumas is “don’t blame yourself,” as she told the U.K.’s The Times earlier this month.
She repeated those words to Kelly when the Today host asked her how she got over feelings of embarrassment and shame related to her own experience. “We naturally blame ourselves,” Anderson said. “You somehow think that you were to blame.”
She said she learned how to handle herself from that experience, which is admirable. But the more she talked about the ways she avoids being in situations that could put her at risk, the more she treaded into territory of apparent victim blaming.
“When I came to Hollywood, of course I had a lot of offers to do private auditions and things that made absolutely no sense,” she said. “Just common sense: don’t go into a hotel room alone. If someone enters a door in a bathrobe, leave. These things that are common sense.”
She then insinuated that some people might ignore this common sense because of career ambitions.
“I know that Hollywood is very seductive and these people want to be famous. Sometimes you think you’re going to be safe with an adult in the room,” she said. “I don’t know where this security comes from, but somehow I’ve dodged it all. I’ve been offered lots of things. A condo and a Porsche to be someone’s number one girl. I just naively said, ‘Well there must be a number two then, so I’m not interested.’ Money, homes, roles in movies. And I just didn’t want to do it that way. I had no desire. I’m a romantic and it didn’t appeal to me.”
Kelly then asked her talk to more about her traumatic 2008 run-in with Weinstein, during which she alleges the producer was verbally abusive.
Anderson had been cast in the spoof Superhero Movie as Invisible Girl, who has an invisible dog as part of her gimmick. A passionate animal rights and PETA activist, Anderson wanted to be clear that she refused to work with a real dog on set, in protest of how they are treated. Besides, the dog would be invisible, so it made sense to her that there would be no reason to have a real animal on set anyway.
Weinstein allegedly popped a gasket and began screaming at and degrading her. Anderson said that he shouted, “You’re Pamela Anderson and you don’t deserve anything. If you don’t do this you’ll never work in this town again.” She then giggled, telling Kelly, “Never in my life had I been talked to [like this]. I’ve had some pretty bad boyfriends. And I’ve never been talked to this way.”
Then came the headline-making comment that stopped just short of saying that some of the women who have been accusing men like Weinstein of sexual abuse and harassment may have been asking for it for going into hotel rooms alone with rumored-to-be-dangerous men.
Kelly brought up that many accusers felt like they were set up by agents and other people in the business they trusted, only to be betrayed by them and left alone with these alleged predators. These women should have demanded that these agents go with them to the hotel room, Anderson said. “That’s what they should have done. Send somebody with them. I think there’s easy ways to remedy that. That’s not a good excuse.”
That’s not a good excuse.
Even Kelly seemed slightly flummoxed by this, attempting to prompt Anderson to end her comments with a more palatable conclusion. “Now there’s more awareness,” Kelly said, which Anderson dutifully repeated. “Of the dangers that lurk,” which Anderson then parroted, too.
All of this is not to discount any of the strength Anderson showed in coming forward with her own history of sexual abuse, nor the value that sharing her story has had. Her experience in Hollywood is her own, and it must have been a Herculean task to be on constant guard protecting herself in an already predatory industry when she was a woman whose career was built on her commodification as a sex object.
But her statements on Today do echo a flimsier relationship to the conversation about sexual assault in the industry than we’ve become accustomed to in recent weeks, including her almost naïve reaction when The Times alerted her about the accusations against photographer Terry Richardson: “Terry Richardson! Terry Richardson! The photographer? Oh, no. But I liked working with him. He was so nice when I met him. He’s gay, right?”
Of course, any discomfort or bafflement Kelly may have felt about Anderson’s statements fell away when she teased the second part of their conversation, which will supposedly center on her “special relationship” with Assange.
The Odd Coupling began when Anderson expressed to mutual friend Vivienne Westwood that she wanted to learn more about effective activism. She began visiting Assange in his fugitive state in the basement of London’s Ecuadorian Embassy, and is now routinely photographed carrying takeout lunch for the two of them to share as she spends upwards of four to five hours at a time talking to him. She’s even made her permanent residence in Europe, in order to make visitations easier.
Prior to their meeting, Assange was in a seven-year legal standoff with Swedish prosecutors over an allegation of rape. In May, Sweden’s director of public prosecutions said that the preliminary investigation was dropped because Assange’s asylum at—and lack of cooperation from—the Ecuadorian embassy made pursuance almost impossible. The investigation would resume immediately if he, at a later date, would make himself available.
Assange has denied claims by two separate women that he has sexually assaulted them. The accusation by the second woman was dropped in 2015 by Swedish authorities after the statute of limitations expired.
So to bring back words that have been used several times in this piece about Anderson, it’s all very complicated and potentially problematic—just as her comments are, just as her status as an advocate is, and just as her relationship with Assange seems to be.
“He’s so funny. He’s very kind, he’s very smart,” she tells Kelly of Assange, in a teaser clip for Friday’s interview. “Brilliant. We talk about everything. I’m there for four hours at a time, and I see him all the time. He asks me about my kids, about my life. We just have this great conversation.”
But is it romantic, Kelly wants to know? The clip stops, freezing on Anderson’s coy facial expression. Kelly mirrors the face, as she urges viewers to tune in.