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Deciphering Harvey Weinstein's bizarre defense against sexual harassment claims

Weinstein's response to the New York Times report includes therapists, Jay-Z, and the NRA.

Marchesa - Front Row - September 2017 - New York Fashion Week: The Shows
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Nearly 30 years of sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein, Miramax co-founder and megaproducer, just went public.

The New York Times dropped an in-depth new exposé on the Hollywood fixture’s alleged pattern of harassment and intimidation of women on the afternoon of October 5, just a day after it came out that Weinstein had hired a team of prominent attorneys to combat an incoming deluge of damaging reports. That team includes Lisa Bloom, a lawyer known for representing women who bring sexual assault allegations to court; in April, Bloom announced that Weinstein would produce her book as a docuseries.

In response to the New York Times’s report, Weinstein’s attorney Charles Harder — who previously represented Hulk Hogan in his lawsuit against Gawker — announced Weinstein’s intention to sue the New York Times, but not before Weinstein released two statements to the publication. Here’s the first, as quoted in the report:

I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it. Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go.

The Times also quoted Bloom describing Weinstein as “an old dinosaur learning new ways,” implying that his age is a factor in how he treats women.

Shortly after the report was published, Weinstein released another, much lengthier statement — which serves less to underline his original statement to the Times than to undermine it with a series of bizarre defenses for his alleged behavior. Here are some of the highlights.

Defense 1: “I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s”

Writes Weinstein:

I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.

I have since learned it’s not an excuse, in the office - or out of it. To anyone.

In other words, Weinstein insists that he knows his age isn’t an excuse for mistreating women, but at the same time, he provides his age as an excuse for mistreating women.

Defense 2: “I've brought on therapists and I plan to take a leave of absence”

Writes Weinstein:

Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go. That is my commitment. My journey now will be to learn about myself and conquer my demons. Over the last year I've asked Lisa Bloom to tutor me and she's put together a team of people. I've brought on therapists and I plan to take a leave of absence from my company and to deal with this issue head on. I so respect all women and regret what happened.

So even though Harder insisted that the Times’s report “is saturated with false and defamatory statements,” Weinstein himself has acknowledged that he regrets “what happened” — implying that something did in, fact, happen.

Defense 3: A fabricated Jay-Z quote

No, really:

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. I want a second chance in the community but I know I've got work to do to earn it.

Quoting Jay-Z at this point would be strange enough on its own, but the thing is, Jay-Z didn’t write this in 4:44. As Spin discovered while trying to find the supposed lyric, it doesn’t actually exist within the entirety of Jay-Z’s latest album. The closest Jay-Z gets is this:

And if my children knew

I don’t even know what I would do

If they ain’t look at me the same

I would prob’ly die with all the shame

It’s unclear exactly how Weinstein arrived at the conclusion that paraphrasing a Jay-Z lyric would help his cause. It does, however, indicate that he — and maybe also his legal team — failed to fact-check this statement.

Defense 4: Weinstein wants to “channel [his] anger” toward the NRA

Perhaps the most confusing part of Weinstein’s confounding statement is that it ends with Weinstein declaring that he’s so “remorseful about the people [he] hurt” that he is determined to “channel that anger” toward a worthy target — the National Rifle Association:

... I've decided that I'm going to give the NRA my full attention. I hope Wayne LaPierre will enjoy his retirement party. I'm going to do it at the same place I had my Bar Mitzvah. I'm making a movie about our President, perhaps we can make it a joint retirement party.

Weinstein has long championed progressive causes, and fundraised extensively for Democratic candidates for years. Maybe he believes that by reminding people that he, too, is frustrated with gun violence, he can assuage their concerns about his alleged sexual harassment.

See the connection? No? Me neither.

Also in that category:

Defense 5: C’mon, Weinstein just started a foundation for women directors

As per Weinstein:

One year ago, I began organizing a $5 million foundation to give scholarships to women directors at USC. While this might seem coincidental, it has been in the works for a year. It will be named after my mom and I won't disappoint her.

While championing women’s behind-the-scenes involvement in the entertainment industry is a laudable cause, it in no way means that Weinstein couldn’t have also undermined or harassed women behind the scenes — nor does it absolve him of allegedly doing so for decades.

You can read Weinstein’s full statement at the New York Times.