On Sunday evening, The Weinstein Company’s board of directors reached the conclusion that “in light of new information about misconduct by Harvey Weinstein that has emerged in the past few days… his employment with The Weinstein Company is terminated, effective immediately.”
The damage, however, was already done. Weinstein, a terribly bullying, terribly pinguid, terribly influential movie mogul—first with Miramax, then Weinstein Co.—had allegedly committed heinous acts of sexual coercion and harassment for decades, with a bombshell New York Times investigation revealing that the 65-year-old exec paid off at least eight of his accusers, many of whom shared similar horror stories: a “business meeting” at a hotel suite soon gave way to propositions that were increasingly sexual in nature. One TV reporter claimed that Weinstein cornered her in the bowels of his restaurant before jacking off into a potted plant. His accusers say they felt trapped, pressured to give in to this round mound of renown’s base demands. He was, after all, a Hollywood kingmaker; the man behind modern cinema classics like Pulp Fiction, The Lord of the Rings, and Good Will Hunting; a behind-the-scenes wizard who’d been thanked at the Academy Awards more often than God. How could they deny him?
Weinstein’s comeuppance had a ring of poetic justice to it—after all, the Times piece dropped around the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s infamous “grab them by the pussy” Access Hollywood tape, in which the president-to-be was caught on a hot mic bragging that his stardom allowed him to sexually assault women at will (both Weinstein and Trump are from the outer borough of Queens). It was also curious how, the very same week, Politico chose to run (and incessantly tweet out) a glowing profile of celebrity-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger, a man who stands accused of predatory behavior similar to Weinstein and Trump.
Right now, many people—both in the Tinseltown bubble and beyond—are asking why? Why now, after decades of payouts and whispers, did one of cinema’s most powerful players finally get his? It’s a difficult question to fully answer, though one possible reason is an increased sense of media accountability surrounding the issue of sexual misconduct in Hollywood, born out of the Bill Cosby case and having more women’s voices heard in newsrooms.
When the full scope of the Cosby catastrophe came into focus, that one of America’s most “beloved,” “wholesome” comedians stood accused of sexually assaulting more than 60 women over a 40-year period, everyone in the access-reliant entertainment media should have received a much-needed wake-up call. They were, in a sense, complicit, churning out profile after pasteurized profile that helped fuel the Cosby mythos. Even right as the horrifying Cosby testimonies were coming to light, former Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker was peddling a 544-page biography of the funnyman scrubbed of any rape allegations.
Taylor Swift, Este Haim, Jaime King, Harvey Weinstein and Lorde attend The Weinstein Company’s 2015 Golden Globes After Party on January 11, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.
Weinstein was even more well-connected in the New York media landscape than Cosby, with numerous friends in very high places. He’d infamously launched Talk magazine with Tina Brown (also the founding editor of The Daily Beast), and seemingly, between the ad dollars he spent and the access he could no doubt provide (or withhold), had the cachet to get stories killed.
In the wake of the Times exposé, Page Six ran a story maintaining that New York magazine had its own Harvey Weinstein blockbuster locked and loaded a year ago, but it disappeared after a meeting between the power broker and the publication’s editor in chief, Adam Moss (New York denies this). Sharon Waxman penned a piece over at The Wrap about how, back in 2004 while reporting for The New York Times, she was looking into allegations of sexual misconduct against Weinstein when the story was spiked—by her male editor—following “intense pressure from Weinstein,” which included a newsroom visit, and replaced by an anodyne slice of studio agitprop. Weinstein even got away with dragging a New York Observer reporter around in a headlock on a New York City street in front of reporters, photographers, and revelers, according to The Cut’s Rebecca Traister, who says she witnessed the episode firsthand. The New York Times’ account of the melee places all the blame on the reporter, while then-Page Six scribe Paula Froelich tweeted that she was going to run a more accurate account of it in her column… until Miramax stepped in and effectively took the reins.