Though more than 80 women have accused the once-fearsome producer of sexual misconduct over decades, he is facing charges in this trial for the harm he is alleged to have inflicted on only two: a woman who says he raped her in a Manhattan hotel in 2013 and another who says he forced oral sex on her at his home in 2006.
In an excellent turn of events, he may also face a second criminal trial. On Monday, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced she would file four counts of rape and sexual battery against Weinstein involving alleged sexual attacks on two women in hotels in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills in 2013, just before that year’s Oscars.
Whether he will be convicted on any of these counts is far from certain, but just seeing him in court is a balm.
“It’s good to see Lady Justice staring him down,” said one of his earliest accusers, Rose McGowan. “It feels like a huge win already.”
Weinstein’s wretched behaviour left a trail of destruction behind him: The ruined or stymied careers of women who fought him off at their own peril, the stars who got work only at a steep cost to their well-being, the enablers and defenders who tossed their scruples out the window to protect him by helping silence accusers with financial settlements, which came with non-disclosure agreements that enabled him to continue behaving as he always had.
I can’t look at Weinstein without thinking about Bill Cosby, who finally got what was coming, and now sits, remorseless, in a Pennsylvania jail. Or men like Matt Lauer, Les Moonves, Charlie Rose and dozens of others who lost their jobs but never really took responsibility for their actions.
But have things changed?
Certainly, that’s the case in the upper professional echelons. One year after the Weinstein scandal broke, the New York Times reported that of the 201 powerful men who lost their jobs as a result of sexual misconduct allegations, nearly half were replaced by women.
Tanzina Vega replaced John Hockenberry on WNYC’s The Takeaway. Jennifer Salke replaced Ted Price as head of Amazon Studios. Alex Wagner replaced Mark Halperin as co-host of Showtime’s The Circus. Rachel Rosenfelt replaced Hamilton Fish as publisher/president of the New Republic, and she was herself replaced last year by another woman, Kerrie Gillis.
At least a dozen states have passed new legislation addressing workplace sexual harassment, including California, the leader of the pack, which not only tightened laws on harassment and non-disclosure agreements, but also now requires that publicly traded companies based in the state appoint women to their boards.
On Monday morning, I watched a live feed of Weinstein’s first courthouse entrance, then a nearby press conference by seven of his accusers, including McGowan, Rosanna Arquette and TV journalist Lauren Sivan. They call themselves the Silence Breakers. “Living in silence,” McGowan said, “is a death sentence for your soul.”
The women watched as Weinstein entered the court flanked by attorneys and beefy bodyguards.
“Did you see the thugs who were protecting him?” asked Arquette. “Like a Scorcese movie!”
Sivan genially introduced herself as “the potted plant girl”.
In 2007 at a Manhattan business dinner, she has alleged, Weinstein lured her into the restaurant section of a club he had invested in, trapped her, then masturbated into a potted plant when she refused him.
“I’m OK being known as ‘the potted plant girl’ as long as he’s forever known as the predator … that he is,” she said.
Sivan has the distinction of having been targeted by both Weinstein and Roger Ailes, the late Fox News Network chairman who both personally fostered and allowed a culture of harassment to flourish at the network until he was exposed by former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson, who sued him personally. Carlson won $20 million and an apology.
Jury selection in the Weinstein case began Tuesday. The trial is expected to last weeks.
As for his fear of being forgotten, Sivan said, he shouldn’t worry for a single moment.
“We will definitely remember him,” she said. “He put MeToo on the map, a movement that has taken over the country and the world. He has changed sexual harassment policies in workplaces around the nation, even in our own government. He has made it more effective and safe for people to report sexual harassment and abuse.”
Heck of a legacy, Harvey.