No, the CLB does not intend to blame the targets of (former) Hollywood Producer Harvey Weinstein for having been propositioned, groped, humiliated, intimidated, or worse. How in the world could such a high volume predation persist over more than two decades? One answer is that Weinstein had enablers. Let’s see who they were.
There had to have been staffers who led starry-eyed young actresses to conferences with Weinstein knowing what would happen after the staffer left. They bear responsibility for what they did and did not do. The circumstance of an employer’s demand is never a valid excuse for enabling a predator or for other misconduct.
It is alleged that the New York Times buried a Weinstein story more than a decade ago. The NYT should be commended for its recent reporting on the scandal but criticized roundly for having remained silent for so long while Mr. Weinstein continued his predation. Every journalist and every media outlet that knew but didn’t publish shares culpability for Weinstein’s long impunity.
What about the victims? There are at least three classes of victim: those who never spoke of it (at least not until this month); those few who spoke up promptly but to no avail; and those who lawyered up to extort some compensation from a villainous but vulnerable Weinstein. If published accounts are true, at least eight Weinstein victims successfully pursued compensation for their trauma and accepted a few dollars more to keep their mouths shut. Presumably, each such victim had a lawyer who knew the value (to Weinstein) of a confidential settlement. The starlets who took money for their silence and the lawyers who represented them are guilty of loathesome behavior. Is it ethical for a plaintiff’s lawyer to accept a nondisclosure agreement demanded by an active sexual predator? Whether or not an ethical violation can arise from a nondisclosure agreement contrary to public interest, there is a moral violation by both the lawyer and his otherwise innocent client.
What of the victims who remained silent at least until they felt safe in going public? They should not claim irrepressible indignation today after voluntarily repressing their indignation for years. They also should be reminded that the decision to remain silent may be counterproductive and selfish to the extent that it further enables the predator and puts others in jeopardy. Sometimes doing the right thing requires sacrifice.
What can be learned from this scandal? The CLB strives to remain alert to signs of hypocrisy. One lesson from the Weinstein scandal is how hypocrisy abounds. Celebrity friends of Weinstein who formerly heaped praise upon him (when it was safe and profitable to do so) are damning him (now that it is safe and profitable to do so) without any insight into their hypocrisy or enabler’s culpability. Men accustomed to copping a feel (or more) on movie sets without permission are damning Weinstein for the same conduct. And no one, other than the newly contrite Quentin Tarantino (who knew but stayed silent), is apologizing or taking responsibility in any sincere fashion.
Should a criminal prosecution follow, the CLB will look forward to a consequent release of Weinstein’s confidential settlement deals. The CLB would like very much to know the names of the lawyers who accepted nondisclosure money from an active sexual predator. Will any of those names be familiar, for example, as champions of women oppressed by the very rich?