Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, & All The Other Powerful Man Called Out For Abuse This Year
For the many, many victims of sexual harassment out there, 2017 has been at once a celebratory and frustrating year. On the one hand, powerful men are being outed as sexual predators, and being forced to actually contend with real consequences of their actions. On the other hand, this wave of powerful men across so many industries having to leave their positions only came about because of the bravery of the people who they harassed and assaulted.
In other words, this is progress. But there is still work to do.
For one thing, society still needs to shift the responsibility for sexual harassment onto the harassers, by instilling boys with the knowledge that sexual harassment is always wrong, in all cases, from the time that they're young. It also needs to start giving victims the benefit of the doubt, instead of the other way around.
"There is ample evidence really out there in the world that this is a very serious and common problem, with deep ripples of aftereffects," says National Sexual Violence Resource Center Chief Public Affairs Officer Kristen Houser. "It's high time that that's the backdrop for when we hear a single person make an allegation — we should begin by believing."
Victims have a million reasons not to report sexual assault or harassment; wouldn't it be better if potential harassers had a million reasons not to do it on the first place? Hopefully, their ousting mean that the tide is turning.
Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, the sexual harassment allegations against Bill O'Reilly, which hit the news in April, now really seem like a harbinger of what was coming for many powerful, seemingly untouchable men who were later outed — and sometimes ousted — because of similar allegations.
Despite O'Reilly's position as one of Fox News' top ratings producers, he was forced to leave Fox News after the news broke that Fox had reportedly paid five women over $13 million in settlements after they accused O'Reilly of alleged sexual harassment. O'Reilly has repeatedly denied all claims of sexual misconduct and says the allegations have put him through a "horrible" experience. He added, "The pain it brings to my children is indescribable."
After Ronan Farrow's October article outlining decades of sexual harassment allegations against Weinstein, Weinstein denied "many" of the allegations against him and apologized for his actions, but was still ousted from his own company.
Once one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, Weinstein is alleged to have sexually harassed and in a few cases allegedly raped at least 82 women. Weinstein denies all rape allegations and non-consensual encounters, but in his apology statement, he did acknowledge that "the way I've behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it."
Kevin Spacey's case has reminded us that not all sexual harassment victims are women. When actor Anthony Rapp accused Spacey of sexual harassment, Spacey responded to by saying that he didn't remember the alleged encounter and then apologized — but then in the same statement, Spacey came out as gay, effectively overshadowing Rapp's claims.
Since then, several employees at Spacey's hit show House of Cards have come out with similar accusations. Spacey has not publicly responded to allegations from the show's employees. Netflix has suspended filming of the final season.
4George H. W. Bush
After actresses Heather Lind and Jordana Grolnick alleged that former President George H. W. Bush had inappropriately groped them and then made a dirty joke about it during a photo op, one of Bush's spokespeople responded by saying that because President Bush is in a wheelchair, his arm naturally falls at most people's lower waist.
"To try to put people at ease, the president routinely tells the same joke," the spokesman told CNN. "And on occasion, he has patted women's rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner. Some have seen it as innocent; others clearly view it as inappropriate." He also issued an apology to Lind on behalf of the former president.
Since then, though, two other women have accused the former president of alleged harassment in very similar circumstances. In lieu of a different comment, the spokesman re-issued the same statement he had made in response to the previous allegations.
Once the head of Amazon Studios, Roy Price was pushed out after a producer for the Amazon show The Man in the High Castle publicly accused him of having sexually harassed her in 2015. Price did not publicly comment on or deny the allegations.
According to Isa Dick Hackett, he had propositioned her and had lewd conversations with her. Almost immediately after news of her allegations broke, Amazon suspended Price.
Restauranteur John Besh had to step down from the head of his New Orleans-based restaurant group after allegations of sexual harassment, in various forms, from 25 women who were either current or former employees. Besh apologized for what he called a consensual affair he had had with a former employee, but denied all allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior.
According to the women, his restaurants allegedly fostered an environment conducive to sexual harassment, where women were at worst punished or at best ignored when they spoke up. Besh had curated an image of himself as a patriot and a family man, once even co-hosting an event with Michelle Obama.
Dozens of women, including A-list actresses like Rachel McAdams and Julianne Moore, have publicly accused movie director James Toback of sexually harassing them. As is often the case, these accusations follow the same pattern of Toback reportedly bragging about his position, inviting them up to his hotel room using work as an excuse, and then allegedly turning the situation into something exceedingly uncomfortable and scarring for the women involved. Toback has forcefully denied all of the allegations, but the New York Times reports that the talent agency that represented him has dropped him.
Chris Savino, who created the Nickelodeon show The Loud House was fired from his position after at least 12 women accused him of alleged workplace sexual harassment spanning over 10 years. Savino apologized for his behavior but did not explicitly deny it, saying in a Facebook post that he had "nothing but the deepest respect for the bravery of the women who have spoken out, trying to create an environment in which they can thrive to their fullest potential.”
After actor Ben Affleck came out swinging against Harvey Weinstein, and then only hours after he publicly wrote of his disappointment with Weinstein, actress Hilarie Burton reminded the world that Affleck had groped her on the set of the MTV show TRL. Affleck then apologized to Burton, and he has since taken additional steps toward fulfilling his pledge to become part of the solution. He announced that any future residuals he receives from Weinstein films will go straight to charities benefiting women and victims of sexual assault.
Political journalist and analyst Mark Halperin reportedly created a very unpleasant working environment for over a dozen women who worked with him at various networks. Halperin denied some of the more serious allegations, but at the same time he did "fully acknowledge and apologize for conduct that was often aggressive and crude."
Even after apologizing for his behavior, he's since been dropped as a contributor at NBC and MSNBC, lost his show on Showtime, and lost a book deal with Penguin Press.
Lockhart Steele, former editorial director at Vox, lost his job after allegations of sexual harassment came out against him in October. Steele has not publicly commended on the allegations. Vox Media later admitted that they had heard reports from numerous people about his behavior and that they should have investigated them more fully earlier.
Leon Wieseltier isn't a household name for most, but he's been a leading figure in American journalism for decades now — and he's allegedly been harassing the women around him for as long as he's held any power and influence. Following the public allegations, Wieseltier apologized for his "offenses against some of [his] colleagues" and for the "misdeeds of [his] past." As the literary editor of the New Republic, Wieseltier's allegedly lecherous behavior toward women was reportedly well-known and ubiquitous. He was planning on starting a new cultural magazine, which has since been scrapped after knowledge of his behavior became more public.
Wieseltier wasn't the only one making the New Republic a toxic environment for women trying to succeed in the media world. New Republic publisher Hamilton Fish resigned from his position after initially having been asked to take an indefinite leave of absence following claims from a number of women at the magazine that he had behaved inappropriately toward them. Fish has not denied the allegations, but he did announce that he was stepping down in a letter, saying, “Women have longstanding and profound concerns with respect to their treatment in the workplace. Many men have a lot to learn in this regard. I know I do.”
Influential fashion photographer Terry Richardson has now been banned from working at numerous top outlets because of years of sexual harassment allegations against him. Richardson denied the allegations against him in 2014, but list of publishers who will no longer work with him now includes Condé Nast, Hearst (together encompassing most of the top fashion magazines), and several top brands such as Bulgari and Diesel.
Journalist Michael Oreskes was forced to resign from his position as a high-ranking editor at NPR after two separate sexual harassment allegations surfaced about his conduct in the 1990s, while he was working at the New York Times. Oreskes apologized for his behavior, saying that what he had done had been "wrong and inexcusable." Oreskes also worked with the Associated Press, where there was also one complaint of "inappropriate verbal communication” from him (about this complaint, Oreskes maintains his innocence).
Actresses Portia de Rossi, Julianna Margulies, and Lisa Guerrero have all publicly accused actor Steven Seagal of sexually harassing them when they were auditioning to work with him. In each of the cases, Seagal allegedly invited them into a private space to audition before behaving very inappropriately toward them. Seagal has not responded to the allegations. Based on a tweet that de Rossi posted about her experience, his behavior was an open secret in the business.
Amazon has launched an investigation into Transparent star Jeffrey Tambor, who is alleged to have sexually harassed his former assistant Van Barnes, a transgender woman. Tambor has "adamantly and vehemently" denied the allegations against him, but Amazon is still taking the matter seriously, especially after the accusations against the aforementioned Roy Price emerged as well.
The allegations against major Hollywood producer Brett Ratner aren't limited to just groping or lewd comments, although lewd comments are certainly part of them. Ratner is also accused of having sexually assaulted multiple women over the course of two decades. Ratner has denied the allegations against him, with his attorney issuing a statement claiming that "no woman has ever made a claim against him for sexual misconduct or sexual harassment." Amid the allegations, Warner Bros., the studio that he worked most closely with, has cut all ties with him.
Two women have accused Dustin Hoffman of sexual harassment, which Hoffman responded to with an apology, but he did not deny the allegations. His director on the set of the movie where the main set of allegations against him came from, however, claims that Hoffman was only a "kidder," and that the allegations had gone too far — even though Hoffman displayed troubling behavior in other cases across his career.
It's not uplifting to discover that men whose work you respect got there while harassing women and making their professional journeys that more difficult. However, it's more heartening to imagine that this wave of men losing their jobs after being outed as sexual predators might actually have a lasting effect.
"I think a series of events played a role in this tipping point — the election of Donald Trump, an admitted sexual predator, the denial of justice to Bill Cosby's victims, the lenient sentence given to Brock Turner by Judge Persky," says Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, who is also the chair of the campaign to Recall Judge Persky, the judge who gave out the lenient sentence in the recent Stanford rape case. "Women are starting to lose faith in the legal system and are seeking to remedy that injustice, as well as to protect other women from harm."