In a new book, “She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement,” New York Times reporters Kantor and Twohey go into detail about what they uncovered, and how difficult it was to get women who said they had been victimized to go public.
“Gwyneth Paltrow was a source early on, much earlier than I think I realized from reading the articles,” said correspondent Erin Moriarty.
“She did play a much more active role than anybody’s ever known,” said Kantor. “But it was hair-raising for her, because Harvey Weinstein had been such an important influence.”
The story Paltrow told the reporters began with a meeting with Weinstein in a hotel room when she was in her early twenties.
“She had a fax from her agent saying here’s where you need to show up,” Kantor said. “So, she went to the hotel room. The meeting was pretty unremarkable. But at the end of it, she says he actually put his hands on her and said, ‘Let’s finish in the bedroom.”
Paltrow says she refused, and later confided in her boyfriend at the time, Brad Pitt. After Pitt confronted Weinstein, Paltrow told the reporters that Weinstein became enraged.
“He essentially said, ‘You are going to screw up your whole career if you tell people about this,'” Kantor said. “It was so uncanny because so many of them would tell variations on the same story.”
“And all of these women with jobs at stake?” asked Moriarty.
“Yes, exactly,” said Twohey. “They were either there to discuss potential roles as actresses, or they were junior employees in his company who were there to basically assist him in the course of the work day.”
But initially most, including Paltrow, wanted their stories to remain private. Kantor said, “There are so many good reasons not to go on the record with a story like this. The famous women often felt like, This will become a sleazy, Hollywood sex story that I don’t wanna be a part of. Women who were unknown said, This will be the first Google search result for me for the rest of my life. I’ll be tainted by this forever.”
Some women who wanted to talk couldn’t. Weinstein silenced accusers with financial settlements including non-disclosure agreements.
Twohey said, “I think people would be astounded by how incredibly restrictive these settlements are. I mean, women can’t tell each other what happened. They can’t tell their husbands. If they tell their therapists, their therapists have to promise to never tell anybody.”
Irwin Reiter, then a company accountant, had long been deeply troubled by his boss’ behavior. He met Kantor regularly inside a restaurant just blocks from the Weinstein offices.
“He gave us some really essential information, and one document in particular that helped us finally break the story,” said Kantor.
The document was an internal memo written by a company literary scout on November 3, 2015, who described her own harassment and what she heard from other employees. “Female Weinstein employees,” she wrote, “are essentially used to facilitate his sexual conquests of vulnerable women who hope he will get them work. ”
The note is proof, say Kantor and Twohey, that when company officials learned about Weinstein’s behavior, they did little to stop it.
“They ended up being so focused on just this sort of limited view of liability of the company that they sort of ignored the broader moral problem that was in front of them,” Twohey said. “And in the end, the company was destroyed by that moral problem.”
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