Local Los Angeles television anchor Lauren Sivan became the first of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment accusers to go on live television Monday morning, when she told Megyn Kelly about an incident in which the powerful movie mogul allegedly trapped her in the basement of a Manhattan restaurant, exposed himself and masturbated in front of her.
Weinstein initially announced he was taking leave from The Weinstein Co. to get the therapy in the wake of the bombshell New York Times report detailing his misconduct—but on Sunday night was summarily fired by his board of directors.
The 39-year-old Sivan, an anchor on LA’s Fox-owned KTTV, appeared before a studio audience on Megyn Kelly Today and calmly recounted her ordeal with Weinstein from a decade ago that was first reported by the Huffington Post.
Sivan, who was a local TV reporter in Long Island at the time of the unpleasant encounter (and, Kelly told the audience, someone with whom she’d socialized in those days), said she had met Weinstein only hours before over a group dinner at a different restaurant—having an enjoyable conversation about politics and presidential history--and then, as the night grew late, agreed, along with one of her girlfriends, to accompany him to a restaurant he co-owned. (The name “Tribeca Grill” went unmentioned in her TV account.)
“He leaned in and tried to kiss me, which I immediately rebuffed. “Whoa whoa whoa, I had no idea that this was what this was. ‘I’m sorry. I have a very serious boyfriend and I’m not interested,’ and I thought it would end there,” Sivan told Kelly and her hushed, riveted audience, describing a situation in which Weinstein offered to give her a tour of a restaurant he co-owned, abruptly dismissed two workers mopping the otherwise empty kitchen, and ended up blocking her escape from a cramped corridor where the restrooms were located. “That’s where he cornered me.”
When Sivan refused to kiss the famous Hollywood producer, Sivan said Weinstein “blocked the exit” and ordered her: “Just stand there and be quiet.”
“Did you know what was about to happen?” asked Kelly, who herself had been a victim of sexual harassment during her time as a cub reporter at Fox News—according to her 2016 memoir, Settle for More—when Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes had made sexually charged remarks and tried to hug and kiss her behind his closed office door.
“No, no idea,” Sivan answered. “And it happened very quickly, and he immediately exposed himself and began pleasuring himself, and I just stood there dumbfounded.”
Sivan continued: “I was so shocked. I could not believe what I was witnessing. It was disgusting and kind of pathetic really, to stand there and look at this man. But more than the disgusting act itself, which of course was gross, the demeaning part of it all—that just 20 minutes earlier, he was having this great conversation with me and I felt so great and flattered by it, and then ‘Stand there and be quiet’ just a few minutes later negated any warm feelings that I had and I realized, ‘Oh, that’s what this was all about.'
“He finished and I said, ‘Can I go now?’ I was pretty annoyed at that point that he had blocked my way. And he said, ‘Yes! Let’s go! Let’s both go!’”
Kelly asked if she’d considered pushing past him during the incident.
“The truth is, I think back, yes, I could have pushed past him. But he’s a very large man and he was blocking the entrance. But I think if my life was threatened I would have absolutely been able to fight my way out. But the shock of what I was watching just kind of makes you frozen…I remember it being relatively quickly. I don’t remember it going on that long. I was surprised.”
Sivan said she immediately told her friend, and others, what had just happened—and Kelly noted that NBC reached out to Weinstein and he didn’t respond.
The day after Weinstein’s misconduct, Sivan recounted, he had reached her by phone at her workplace, Long Island cable channel TV 12, and told her he’d had a great time, and asked her if she would see him again.
She reminded him she had a boyfriend and hung up, she said.
Sivan said Weinstein’s statement to the Times, in which he blamed his misconduct on the culture when he was coming up in the 1960s and 1970s, provoked her to go public with her account.
“That apology was the final straw for me,” she said. “Enough is enough with this guy. There was no remorse. There was no acknowledgement of the type of behavior that was going on. If he did this with me, who was just a stranger, who is not an actress in Hollywood and doesn’t need anything from him, I can only imagine how many other women something like this has happened to.”
During a second segment of her show, Sivan said she didn’t immediately go public with her Weinstein encounter because she didn’t want to threaten her job and reputation. “Also there’s that feeling of shame—that perhaps I did something to give him the wrong impression. Maybe I was flirty…and that’s why this happened.”
Kelly confided: “I find it very irritating when you get the ‘Why didn’t you go to HR?’”—this Kelly said in a deep, slow voice, as though impersonating a moron. “Do you live in this world? Do you understand the realities of the power imbalance in a given workplace?”
Kelly included two sexual harassment experts in the discussion. When one of them, journalist Hannah Seligson, mentioned that female victims of sexual harassment frequently are prevented from going public with their stories because of non-disclosure agreements, Kelly noted, “We saw that at Fox News, and by the way, Fox News has problems, but it’s not the only place. There are a lot of places that need to do a self-examination.”