Harvey Weinstein faces backlash amidst sexual misconduct allegations

Online photo.

Online photo.

Harvey Weinstein, 65-year-old film executive, silenced accusations of sexual misconduct with large, out-of-court settlements over the past three decades. Some settlements totaled more than $100,000.

Weinstein’s wealth and influence ceased to protect him Oct. 5, when the New York Times released an investigative report detailing several allegations of sexual harassment and assault involving the media mogul. More than 30 women in the film industry have since come forward with accusations of sexual misconduct against Weinstein, with allegations ranging in severity from inappropriate comments to rape.

“I do not think Harvey Weinstein understands or comprehends how much pain and suffering this brings to me and scores of other women,” said Louisette Geiss, a former actress and screenwriter who left the film industry after Weinstein allegedly exposed himself to her.

There has been backlash against Weinstein, the mastermind behind critically-acclaimed films Pulp Fiction and Shakespeare in Love. He was fired by his own company, Weinstein and Co., Oct. 8. Georgina Chapman, Weinstein’s wife of 10 years, made public she would be divorcing him two days later. The Motion Picture Academy revoked his membership Oct. 14, saying in a statement his behavior “has no place in society.”

According to Assistant Professor of Communication Josh Watson, it is unlikely Weinstein’s public image will ever recover due the seriousness of his conduct and his questionable public statements.

“It really looks like his career is finished,” Watson said. “I don’t see how you recover from 30 years of very bad behavior, especially when the first responses he made were questioning his victims.”

Watson said those facing serious allegations and tight media scrutiny should not attempt to fight every accusation. He said the best response in a situation like this is to admit wrongdoing and promise to get professional help.

“If you were counseling this guy, you’d advise him to be honest and clear about what is real,” Watson said. “You don’t need to get into a ‘he said, she said’ about things which are rumor and gossip. Using justifications for why you did something so bad is not going to exonerate you in the court of public opinion.”

Weinstein first admitted wrongdoing not in a public statement, but in an undercover investigation conducted by the New York Police Department.

In March 2015, 22-year-old actress Ambra Battilana Gutierrez met with Weinstein for what was supposed to be a business meeting at his New York City office. After Gutierrez reported to the NYPD a sexual assault took place during the meeting, Gutierrez once again met with Weinstein while wearing an audio wire.

As investigators listened in to the meeting, Weinstein admitted to groping Gutierrez while attempting to lure her into his Manhattan hotel room. Evidence from the investigation was presented to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, but formal charges were never filed.

Manhattan District Chief Assistant District Attorney Karen Friedman Agnifilio defended the decision to not charge Weinstein in a public statement last week, saying the evidence needed to charge and convict Weinstein was not present in the audio recording alone.

“While the recording is horrifying to listen to, what emerged from the audio is insufficient to prove a crime under New York law, which requires prosecutors to establish criminal intent,” Agnifilio said. “Subsequent investigative steps undertaken to establish criminal intent were not successful. This, coupled with other proof issues, meant there was no choice but to conclude the investigation without criminal charges.”

As several victims have come forward publicly, The New York and London Police Departments have launched new criminal investigations into alleged sexual assaults involving Weinstein.

Law enforcement officials were not the only ones with concerns about Weinstein’s behavior prior to this month. Despite earlier statements from the company stating they had no prior knowledge of Harvey Weinstein’s behavior or settlements, Weinstein and Co. was made aware in September 2015 of three or four settlements reached with women by Harvey Weinstein, according to a New York Times report last week. Lance Maerov, a board member who negotiated with Weinstein for a new work contract at the time, said he assumed the settlements were issued after consensual encounters.

To address lingering concerns among some board members over the settlements, a tougher sexual harassment clause was reached in the contracts of Harvey Weinstein and several other Weinstein and Co. executives.

The Oklahoma Christian University campus enforces Title IX guidelines in order to protect students against instances of campus sexual harassment and assault. Since 2013, two cases of sexual misconduct have been reported to campus police: A non-forcible sex offense on campus property in 2015, and a forcible sex offense off campus in 2013. Title IX requires all federally funded private and public colleges to properly investigate instances of campus sexual misconduct and report possible criminal activity to local law enforcement.

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