The fallout from the New York Times' story chronicling producer Harvey Weinstein's nearly three decades of sexual-harassment allegations has been swift: On Friday, The Weinstein Co. board announced he was beginning his promised leave of absence immediately and promised a "thorough and independent" investigation into the allegations leveled against him.
Meanwhile, the Democratic party is distancing itself from Weinstein, a longtime donor to liberal candidates and causes.
Here's the latest:
New allegation emerges
Late Friday, The Huffington Post published a graphic account from local TV reporter Lauren Sivan. She told reporter Yashar Ali that a decade ago Weinstein cornered her in a restaurant hallway, and after she rejected his attempts to kiss her, he exposed himself to her before proceeding to masturbate without her consent. "Yeah, this happened," tweeted Sivan, linking to the story. "Luckily I didn't need a job or favor from him (plus) didn't have to be polite. Others did. Keep that in mind." A Weinstein rep had no comment when reached by USA TODAY.
Weinstein placed on 'indefinite leave'
On Friday evening, the board of The Weinstein Co.confirmed Weinstein will be taking "an indefinite leave of absence," effective immediately. He had previously volunteered to step away. The board also announced it had appointed an outside law firm to undertake a "thorough and independent investigation," though their statement did not specify the timeframe.
"It is essential to our Company’s culture that all women who work for it or have any dealings with it or any of our executives are treated with respect and have no experience of harassment or discrimination," the statement stressed.
Weinstein's brother and co-chair, Bob, and CEO David Glasser will lead the company while he is away.
The next steps, they said in a statement, "will depend on Harvey’s therapeutic progress, the outcome of the Board’s independent investigation, and Harvey’s own personal decisions."
Democrats, GOP feud over Weinstein donations
By Friday, nine Democrats and the party's national committee had joined Vermont's Patrick Leahy in vowing to give away the campaign contributions they'd received from Weinstein in recent years. Among them: Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Al Franken of Minnesota and Kamala Harris of California.
But the DNC soon got into a war of sound bites with the Republican National Committee, who said they hadn't given back nearly enough of the approximately $300,000 Weinstein and his family had donated dating back to Bill Clinton's first administration.
Did Weinstein make up a Jay-Z lyric?
As the industry reacted to one of "the most open secrets in Hollywood," Weinstein issued an apology to the Times, invoking the NRA, his bar mitzvah and — strangest of all — Jay Z, with whom Weinstein is working on multiple film projects.
"Jay-Z wrote in 4:44: 'I’m not the man I thought I was, and I better be that man for my children,'" Weinstein wrote. "The same is true for me."
Unfortunately for Weinstein, that quote doesn't actually show up in 4:44, nor does any lyric resembling his statement.
The closest Jay Z comes to Weinstein's words is on the album's title track, which references the infidelity that threatened his marriage to Beyoncé, rapping, "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 probably die with all the shame."
'Who's your Harvey Weinstein?' trends
The Weinstein story inspired writer Anne T. Donahue to open a conversation on Twitter encouraging people to share their own stories of sexual harassment, titled "Who's Your Harvey Weinstein?"So far, more than 2,200 have, including men.
To readers who cast doubt on their stories, Donahue asked, "have you not been listening for the last couple decades/centuries?"
Spielberg declines to comment on rival Weinstein
Director Steven Spielberg, who has gone up against Miramax and the Weinstein Company for projects and Oscars, says he has "a lot of opinions" about the mercurial Weinstein, but won't be getting into it while promoting this weekend's HBO documentary about his career.
While doing press on the red carpet at the premiere of Spielberg Thursday night in New York, he declined a question from the Associated Press about the scandal, saying, "It’s a subject I don’t shy from, but it’s not relevant to what we’re discussing about Susan’s movie today. I have a lot of opinions about that, but not for this event tonight.”
Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan famously lost out for best picture to Weinstein's Shakespeare in Love at the 1999 Academy Awards.
See you in court
In an interview with the New York Post published late Thursday night , the high-powered film producer said he planned to sue the Times for up to $50 million, enlisting Charles J. Harder, the same attorney who won a $140 judgment for wrestler Hulk Hogan against the gossip website Gawker. The judgment bankrupted Gawker, but was later settled for $31 million.
Weinstein said he's bringing the suit because of the "Times' inability to be honest with me, and their reckless reporting," adding that that the editorial team behind the story made a deal with Weinstein and his team to "tell us about the people they had on the record in the story, so we could respond appropriately, but they didn’t live up to the bargain."
He continued, "The Times editors were so fearful they were going to be scooped by New York Magazine and they would lose the story, that they went ahead and posted the story filled with reckless reporting, and without checking all they had with me and my team."
After reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey spent six months to research the story, Weinstein says the editorial team gave him 24 hours to respond.
He also believes the paper has it out for him.
“They never wrote about the documentary I did with Jay-Z about Rikers Island, they never write that I raised $50 million for amfAR, nor my work with Robin Hood – instead they focus on trying to bring me down. This is a vendetta, and the next time I see Dean Baquet (the executive editor of the Times) it will be across a courtroom.”
The Times responded to Weinstein's legal threat Thursday." We are confident in the accuracy of our reporting," said spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha. "Mr. Weinstein was aware and able to respond to specific allegations in our story before publication. In fact, we published his response in full."
Wife 'stands 100 percent behind me'
Weinstein says his wife of 10 years, Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman, “stands 100 percent behind me."
"Georgina and I have talked about this at length," he told the Post, noting the couple strategized before the Times piece went live. "We went out with (legal consultant) Lisa Bloom last night when we knew the article was coming out. Georgina will be with Lisa and others kicking my a-- to be a better human being and to apologize to people for my bad behavior, to say I’m sorry, and to absolutely mean it.”
About Ashley Judd's accusation
Weinstein denied the accusation leveled by actress Ashley Judd that began the Times story, in which the Kiss the Girls star said she showed up tohis hotel room 20 years ago for a breakfast meeting to be greeted with talk of massages and watching him shower.
The Post interview also points out that while Judd told the Times she never worked with Weinstein again, she actually did two more times: in 2002's Frida and 2009's Crossing Over.
However, he doesn't appear to be gunning for her, telling the Post, “I know Ashley Judd is going through a tough time right now, I read her book (her memoir All That Is Bitter and Sweet), in which she talks about being the victim of sexual abuse and depression as a child. Her life story was brutal, and I have to respect her. In a year from now, I am going to reach out to her.”
'No company ever talks about settlements'
Weinstein refused to engage when asked about the settlements the Times reports he paid to at least eight women, including actress Rose McGowan and former employee Lauren O'Connor, who described his company as a "toxic environment for women" in a 2015 memo to executives.
“No company ever talks about settlements, and neither does the recipient," he said , "so I don’t know how the Times came to this conclusion, but it is pure conjecture, the reporters have made assumptions.”
Contributing: Andrea Mandell