Filmmaker Woody Allen said the allegations of sexual harassment against producer Harvey Weinstein should not lead to “a witch hunt atmosphere” , BBC reported on Monday. The filmmaker said a situation where “every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself” should be avoided.

Allen said he hoped the developments “transformed into a benefit for people rather than just a sad or tragic situation”.

Weinstein has been accused of sexually harassing and raping women associates and actors, who spoke to The New York Times and The New Yorker.

Hours earlier, the 81-year-old director who has also been accused of molesting his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow – a claim he has denied – told the BBC he felt “sad” for Weinstein. “The whole Harvey Weinstein thing is very sad for everybody involved,” he said. “Tragic for the poor women that were involved, sad for Harvey that [his] life is so messed up.

Allen’s comments created a row. Several people including actor Rose McGowan who is one of the many to accuse Weinstein of sexual assault, reacted on social media. “You vile worm,” she said on Twitter.

Allen then clarified his comments. He told Variety magazine that he meant Weinstein was a “sad, sick man.” “When I said I felt sad for Harvey Weinstein, I thought it was clear the meaning was because he is a sad, sick man,” Allen said. “I was surprised it was treated differently.”

Allen’s son Ronan Farrow were among those who investigated Weinstein. Farrow spoke to 13 women about Weinstein for the New Yorker.