Entertainment News

Harvey Weinstein’s studio faces civil rights probe; assistant admits she was paid to keep quiet

The New York Attorney General will investigate allegations of sexual harassment and intimidation.

In further trouble for The Weinstein Company, the New York Attorney General has launched a civil rights investigation into the embattled film studio after multiple allegations of sexual harassment and rape against its co-founder Harvey Weinstein, The Guardian reported.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has issued a wide-ranging subpoena for records to the company, which has its headquarters in New York, reportedly seeking personnel files, criteria for hiring, promoting and firing, formal and informal complaints of sexual harassment or other discrimination and records showing how such complaints were handled. Schneirderman’s office is examining whether the sexual harassment allegations against Weinstein are in any way reflective of the company’s handling of gender-related issues or civil and human rights.

“No New Yorker should be forced to walk into a workplace ruled by sexual intimidation, harassment or fear,” Schneiderman said in a statement on Monday. “If sexual harassment or discrimination is pervasive at a company, we want to know.”

Police investigations into the allegations against Weinstein are also underway in New York City, London and Los Angeles.

Paid to stay silent

Weinstein, who is one of Hollywood’s most powerful and influential producers, was fired from The Weinstein Company following reports in The New York Times and New Yorker that he sexually harassed women for decades. More than 40 women have made allegations against Weinstein, including prominent Hollywood actors Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Cara Delevingne, Lupita Nyong’o and Brit Marling.

In some cases, the women had allegedly been barred from speaking out against misconduct as they had signed non-disclosure agreements with the producer. Weinstein’s former assistant Zelda Perkins, in an interview to the Financial Times on Monday, claimed that she had been paid $165,200 dollars in 1998 as part of a legal contract to stay silent after she and a colleague, who had allegedly been assaulted by the producer, decided to complain against him.

Perkins, who worked with Weinstein at his previous company Miramax, said she too been sexually harassed for years. “I want to publicly break my non-disclosure agreement,” she told the Financial Times. “Unless somebody does this there won’t be a debate about how egregious these agreements are and the amount of duress that victims are put under.”

Weinstein’s response to the allegations have ranged from denial to apology and counter-accusations, The Atlantic pointed out. When the allegations first came out, Weinstein issued a lengthy statement apologising for his conduct, reiterating that “rules about behaviour and workplaces were different” in the 1960s and ’70s, when he “came of age”. But he also threatened to sue The New York Times (the suit is now in jeopardy after Weinstein fired his lawyer).

After Nyong’o accused the producer of sexual misconduct in an essay for The New York Times, his spokesperson, Sallie Hofmeister, issued a statement saying “Mr Weinstein has a different recollection of the events, but believes Lupita is a brilliant actress and a major force for the industry. Last year, she sent a personal invitation to Mr. Weinstein to see her in her Broadway show Eclipsed.”

In a near-identical response to Marling’s accusations, the spokesperson in a statement to The Atlantic that the producer “has a different recollection of the events’’.

Condemning Weinstein

Meanwhile, in a joint interview with George Clooney, Matt Damon told ABC news that although he knew Weinstein was a “womaniser”, the actor never realised that he was a sexual predator. “We hope this is a watershed moment for us as a society, where women feel safe enough to talk about this issue, feel believed,” Clooney said in the interview.

On Monday, leading figures in British theatre released a statement condemning “sexual harassment or abuse of power” within their industry, The Guardian reported. The statement, signed by 19 British theatre owners, follows accusations of sexual misconduct against Weinstein and British theatre director Max Stafford-Clark.

“Following the reports and allegations of the last two weeks, first in America and, more recently, closer to home, we have come together to make clear that there can be no place for sexual harassment or abuse of power in our industry,” the statement said.

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