Hollywood’s Largest Union Responds to the Sexual Harassment Scandal

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The entertainment industry appears to be engaging in a superficial public relations campaign in response to the systemic sexual harassment crisis, which has severely tarnished the once-golden Hollywood brand.

In the fall of 2017, numerous women came forward with sexual misconduct allegations against former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, charges that spanned several decades and dealt with inappropriate and possible criminal behavior ranging from harassment to rape.

What has followed the initial Weinstein related expose is a host of harassment and sexual misconduct allegations involving actors, producers, directors, and other high-profile individuals.

Many of the alleged incidents are said to have taken place in hotel rooms. In a number of instances, women who believed they were attending a business meeting were instead subjected to various levels of improper behavior.

After the earth shattering revelations had come to the public forefront, what the appropriate response on the part of the entertainment community should have been was, at a minimum, to immediately cease the practice of holding meetings in hotel room suites.

Tragically, this did not occur and the practice of conducting private hotel room meetings continues to take place, despite the avalanche of news stories surrounding the biggest scandal in Hollywood history.

Elite decision makers in the industry argue that the private hotel room setting has been used to conduct meetings for those seeking roles in movie productions or television programs since the early days of Hollywood.

The continued use of hotel rooms for meetings has finally led SAG-AFTRA, which is the largest labor union in Hollywood representing actors, performers, broadcast journalists, and other entertainment professionals, to actually do something.

The union had been under fire in the wake of the sexual impropriety scandal for failing to protect its members from potential sexual misconduct. After holding a series of public meetings and forums with its members and industry leaders, the union has released a new set of guidelines regarding the conducting of private meetings in hotel rooms and residences, which calls for an end to the practice.

SAG-AFTRA is urging its members and their respective representatives to refrain from accepting professional meetings in “high-risk locations.”

If for any reason a producer and actor fail to come to an agreement on a meeting location, the SAG-AFTRA guidelines establish the concept of a “support peer,” which is an individual who will be available to accompany a performer to the meeting.

Distressingly, the guidelines may prove to be ineffective in the long run, since they are voluntary rather than mandatory.

To understand the industry’s intrinsic conflict, a cursory examination of a significant segment of the entertainment business is necessary; one that seems to have escaped a cultural airing and public dialogue—the music business.

Male music performers, who have had serious accusations lodged against them, seem to have been permitted to take a brief leave from their public appearances. And when a seemingly adequate amount of time has passed, they are subsequently allowed to go forward with their careers as if nothing ever happened.

–Singer Chris Brown was accused of assaulting then-girlfriend singer-actress Rihanna and additionally had similar problems with another girlfriend in 2017. The subsequent girlfriend was able to obtain a five-year restraining order to address claims of abuse and violent threats.

–Singer R. Kelly, who was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008, nevertheless has for decades been trailed by accusations of abuse of women and of having had sexual relationships with minors.

–Epic Records chairman and CEO Antonio “L.A.” Reid made a swift exit from Sony Music after having been accused of sexual harassment by a female assistant at Epic Records. Variety reported that “multiple” claims were made against Reid. This year Reid announced that he had formed a new record label, Hitco, which has signed rapper Big Boi.

–Singer Trey Songz was recently arrested for felony domestic assault. The felony charge of hitting a woman while at a Hollywood party was rejected by the Los Angeles District Attorney. Songz’s case is still being reviewed by the L.A. City Attorney to determine whether or not to charge the singer with a lesser charge of misdemeanor domestic violence.

–Rapper XXXTentacion was arrested in 2016 and is awaiting trial for aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, domestic battery by strangulation, false imprisonment, and witness tampering. The rapper is also facing other felony counts relating to the case and was under house arrest from late December 2017 through March 2018. The rapper recently reached number one on the Billboard Artist 100 chart to become the top musical act in the nation.

–Rapper Fabolous was recently charged with third-degree aggravated assault and third-degree terroristic threats. The rapper allegedly punched a female victim in the face with enough force to knock out her front teeth.

The revelations regarding the horrific practices that were going on in all corners of the entertainment industry were a long time in coming. No superficial image repair has the means to restore the integrity of an individual or to address in any meaningful way the wanton exercise of arrogant power.

Perhaps when criminal prosecutions begin to take place, persons in positions of power and influence will be deterred from taking advantage of employee hopefuls, vulnerable subordinates, and would-be stars.

Hollywood Unravels

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Hollywood is experiencing a seismic displacement that is impacting its business, brand, and future prospects.

Since the disgusting serial behavior of Harvey Weinstein was made known to the public courtesy of the tenacious reporting of journalist Ronan Farrow, some of the most powerful members of the Hollywood community have been accused of various forms of sexual misconduct ranging from sexual harassment to criminal sexual assault.

The alleged perpetrators comprise a list of some of the biggest and most heralded names in Hollywood, including Ben Affleck (actor and Oscar winning director), Dustin Hoffman (Oscar winning actor), Kevin Spacey (Oscar winning actor), Jeremy Piven (Emmy winning television actor), James Toback (director and Oscar nominated screenwriter), and David O. Russell (Oscar nominated director).

For decades the Hollywood community has in large part ignored and even condoned the contemptible behavior of Roman Polanski (Oscar winning director) and Woody Allen (four-time Oscar winner).

New revelations related to Hollywood’s unseemly side seem to be pouring in by the hour. Now accusations against Spacey are opening up yet another horrific illegality that has been the subject of rumors in the town for years, the unspeakable crime of pedophilia.

Never before has a scandal this dark and pervasive draped the Hollywood community with such ill-repute. And never before has the Hollywood brand been sullied as badly as it has been during this past year.

Adding to the crushing weight of it all is the fact that the entertainment business is suffering damages in a dollar amount that is still impossible to calculate. Many of those who are currently accused of misconduct have potentially profitable current and future projects that have been cancelled or put on hold.

Some of the accused have careers that are, at a minimum, severely impaired. For others it is most certainly over.

As viewers of entertainment industry award shows are able to attest, Hollywood has set itself up as an agenda driven purveyor of cultural norms. Many entertainment figures are infamous for talking down what they view as “fly-over” country.

Middle America is the place that so-called progressives on the Left Coast use to bolster one another’s views with unfounded smug certainty. Even as Hollywood pitches its out-of-the-mainstream worldview, a twisted form of narcissism, self-idolatry, still rules the roost and blinding hypocrisy reigns. This is particularly evident when it comes to the outward display of self-congratulation via the award ceremony industry.

Movies about Hollywood itself seem to be the recipients of a disproportionate degree of attention, e.g., “The Artist,” “La La Land,” “Argo” and “Trumbo.”

The Left Coast is also in the ugly habit of deriding those who promote government reduction, self-defense rights, border enforcement, and the like. Judeo-Christian faith expression serves as fodder for snide comedic skits and perverse story plotlines. Intact marriages and loving families are the stuff of ridicule. And patriotism has been recast as divisive, outmoded, and worse.

There is a consequence to embracing a worldview that is devoid of time-honored values. What we have now in Hollywood is a frayed fabric that continues to unravel with no apparent way of mending.

Harvey Weinstein’s Growing Legal Quagmire

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Harvey Weinstein has now lost his job, his wife, and his reputation. Next on his agenda is the prospect of spending a great deal of time huddling with his lawyers.

The disgraced movie mogul is facing a mounting pile of legal troubles swarming at him from every conceivable direction. The details that have been revealed in allegations of sexual misconduct against Weinstein, particularly those contained in Ronan Farrow’s reporting for the New Yorker, could result in civil and criminal liability for Weinstein and his company, with legal actions against the former film executive emanating from multiple jurisdictions.

More than 20 women have voiced allegations against Weinstein, claims of which include harassment, groping, forced sexual relations, and even rape. The alleged incidents took place over many decades in numerous locales.

The names of women who have lodged charges in the public square include an unusually high number of well known actresses including Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Rosanna Arquette, Mira Sorvino, and Kate Beckinsale.

Most of the alleged victims would not be in a position to sue Weinstein in a civil court, due to the relatively short statutes of limitations governing the former mogul’s alleged torts (one or two year time periods).

The alleged assaults took place in many different jurisdictions, including New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Utah, as well as the French Riviera, each of which has varying statutes of limitations and time limits on reporting to authorities.

The alleged acts date as far back as 1984. Eight of the incidents allegedly occurred after the 2005 founding of the Weinstein Company. Moreover, the eight settlements Weinstein reportedly reached with former accusers could prevent those women who already settled from taking him to court.

However, Weinstein’s legal problems in the civil arena are just the beginning of an expanding legal vortex. He now finds his alleged actions are the subject of investigations by the FBI as well as the New York and London police, while Los Angeles law enforcement is looking into launching a probe of its own.

Weinstein has been accused of committing both sexual assault and rape. A sexual assault occurs when an individual is offensively touched without consent or compelled to engage in a sexual act. Rape occurs when an individual is sexually penetrated without consent.

Three of the women have alleged that Weinstein raped them. Predictably, the film executive released a statement denying any allegations of non-consensual sex.

Felony rape is a very serious crime, and a conviction in New York can carry a sentence of up to 25 years. Since 2006 New York has had no statute of limitations for first degree felony sex offenses; this law did not take effect until after 2006 and therefore prosecutors would probably be barred by the statute of limitations for crimes that occurred prior to 2006.

The case that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. had ready to go two years ago should have been prosecuted. An Italian model cooperated with police to obtain an audio recording of Weinstein admitting that he had groped her, yet Vance failed to bring the charges forward. He had no adequate explanation for his lack of action.

The Weinstein Company itself is also facing potential legal consequences. Female employees of the Weinstein Company could bring individual or class action lawsuits against the company for subjecting them to alleged hostile work environments.

The company released a statement indicating that the “allegations come as an utter surprise to the Board” and additionally that “any suggestion that the Board had knowledge of this conduct is false.”

The New York Times followed this statement with a report that the Weinstein Company directors were informed of at least three confidential settlements with women. One of the remaining board members claimed that although he knew about the settlements he believed they dealt only with consensual affairs.

The former and current directors, including Weinstein himself, could be sued by investors in a breach-of-fiduciary-duty lawsuit. The directors could be liable for their failure to address Weinstein’s alleged sexual misconduct.

Harvey and his brother Bob Weinstein own 42 percent of the company; this leaves a significant number of outside investors who may go after former and current members of the company’s board, including Weinstein.

Weinstein, as a director and officer of the company, would have breached his duty of loyalty if he acted in bad faith for a purpose other than advancing the best interests of the company. If a co-chairman of a company uses his or her position of power to sexually assault potential and actual employees, it breaches the duty to the firm. It also does considerable harm to the company’s brand and the reputation of the enterprise.

According to TMZ, Weinstein’s employment contract with the company had unusual passages in which the contract explicitly addressed the possibility of future misconduct claims against Weinstein.

According to the website, Weinstein agreed to reimburse the company for any settlements or judgments arising out of his misconduct and to make an additional payment to the company for each instance of wrongdoing. The contract purportedly provided that Weinstein could not be fired for committing heinous acts against women as long as he came up with the required payments.

If the TMZ description of the contract is accurate, it means that former and current board members of the Weinstein Company would have been put on notice of Weinstein’s unlawful behavior and sadly would have deliberately allowed his behavior to continue.

Harvey Weinstein: Hollywood’s Open Secret

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The Hollywood left and the Democratic Party are reeling from the recent revelations reported by the New York Times, which describe three decades of alleged serial sexual harassment on the part of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Each story seems to follow a similar plotline. A young female employee or Hollywood hopeful in search of a film role is invited to what is represented as a professional meeting with Weinstein. Instead of a meeting, though, what the individual encounters is an attempt to coerce various sexual favors.

More that 20 women, former employees and well known celebrities, were referenced in the New York Times report. Weinstein reportedly paid settlements to at least 8 different women, and other media outlets are planning to release further investigative stories about the filmmaker’s purported misconduct.

With the prospect of more sordid details yet to come, the Hollywood left and its favorite political party are feeling the heat. For his part, Weinstein appears to be of the mindset that he can resurrect his image by simply demonstrating his unwavering adherence to the tenets of liberalism.

Despite his stature as a movie executive, bought-and-paid-for connections with numerous politicians, and sizable crisis management machine, Weinstein’s effort to be granted the same latitude as Woody Allen or Roman Polanski does not appear to be working.

The tactical failure may be occurring, in part, because Weinstein’s alleged sexual abuse has a number of high-profile celebrity victims, including actresses Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan.

There is another component that is of even greater import for Weinstein in general and the Democratic Party in particular; that is, the issue of women’s rights and its attendant agenda items, which includes sexual harassment in the workplace. As the mid-term elections loom, liberals can in no way afford to protect a Hollywood filmmaker, even one that has been a prime source of financial support for left-wing campaigns and political causes.

Weinstein assembled a team of political spin doctors and public relations experts to counter recent allegations. He enlisted the help of Democrat public relations firm SKDKnickerbocker and former Obama White House Communications Director Anita Dunn.

He had also brought onboard attorney Lisa Bloom, the daughter of high-powered agenda-driven attorney Gloria Allred, to provide tutelage on feminist principles, and former President Bill Clinton’s chief crisis manager Lanny Davis, who is known for his quick responses to sexual abuse allegations. However, Davis and Bloom have abruptly left “Team Harvey,” perhaps pulling out after Weinstein combined an attempted apology with a threat to sue the newspaper that broke the story.

Weinstein had sent a poorly written statement to the New York Times, which shifted the blame for his behavior on having supposedly grown up in a sexist time. In the same statement, he makes a commitment to seek therapy.

It would be of interest to know whether any of Weinstein’s experts advised him to make the claim that a “right wing conspiracy” is to blame for the predicament in which he finds himself. It would be equally intriguing to know whether he was counseled to include in a release, which was supposedly written to express remorse, his intention to go after the NRA.

Perhaps to demonstrate that he is still trendy after all these years, Weinstein included in his statement a quote, which he purportedly obtained from a Jay Z tune, to somehow partially explicate a long history of alleged harassment. (Reports indicate that no such lyrics exist in any released Jay Z material.)

“Jay Z wrote in 4:44 ‘I’m not the man I thought I was and I better be that man for my children.’ The same is true for me,” Weinstein wrote.

It is predictable that Weinstein would believe that Hollywood would let him off the hook for any abusive behavior toward women. After all, he has held a unique position in Hollywood for a very long stretch. Along the way he was able to grab a Best Picture Oscar for “Shakespeare in Love” and to also create a large number of critically acclaimed films that include “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” “Pulp Fiction,” and “Good Will Hunting.”

When he served as head of Miramax along with his brother Bob, he pioneered the art of turning an artsy independent film into box-office gold. Known as the master of the Academy Award campaign, he was able to obtain nominations for lesser known titles. In fact, Miramax snagged an unprecedented 249 Academy Award nominations and was able to secure 60 wins in a mere 15 years.

After Weinstein and his brother left Miramax and started up the Weinstein Co., they were able to use their Oscar formula to win Best Picture two years in a row for “The King’s Speech” and “The Artist.” All the while Weinstein nurtured the image of the consummate liberal, supporting left-leaning causes, particularly feminism, to bolster his progressive bona fides.

In light of the New York Times article, one cannot help but see the irony of Weinstein’s 2015 distribution of “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary that examines sexual assault on American college campuses.

The entertainment community ignored the incessant rumors about Weinstein that circulated for years. Hollywood insiders knew about Weinstein’s purported conduct and in keeping quiet became enablers of the most hypocritical kind.

Reacting to the New York Times article, Rebecca Traister wrote in The Cut, “I have been having conversations about Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment for more than 17 years,” adding that she had heard from “lots of other people, now other reporters, who were working, often for years, to nail down the story of Harvey’s sexual abuses.”

“It wasn’t a secret to the inner circle,” said Kathy DeClesis, Bob Weinstein’s assistant in the early 1990s, as quoted by the New York Times.

“The only thing I’m surprised about,” one former Miramax executive, who worked closely with Weinstein, told the Los Angeles Times, “is how long it took.”