Defamation and libel lawsuits seem to be the trendy way to hit back against unfavorable coverage for celebrities and politicians alike, banking on the current controversy over “fake news” to cast doubt on salacious reports about their own peccadillos.
On that note, famed Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein is planning to sue The New York Times for publishing an expose claiming to unearth a long history of sexual harassment, allegedly hushed up with payments to multiple victims.
The article, published by the NYT on Thursday, used personnel files and the details of legal settlements to paint a picture of the Miramax co-founder as a chronic offender who repeatedly sexually harassed women over a number of decades, including movie actresses such as Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan, as well as other female employees in professional settings.
Among other evidence, the article noted payments to eight women in return for confidentiality agreements.
After the publication of the NYT's expose, which recounted incidents in which Weinstein appeared nude in front of female work associates and made a temp give him a massage, the legendary producer announced plans to take a leave of absence and enter therapy.
He added he regretted some of his past behavior, attributing it, in part, to outdated norms.
Weinstein told the NYT through his legal advisor Lisa Bloom (who subsequently resigned): “I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, 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.”
However, the movie mogul isn’t admitting that any of his behavior rose to the level of sexual harassment. He also hired attorney Charles J. Harder and announced plans to sue the NYT for $50 million for “reckless reporting” and defamation.
Harder previously represented professional wrestler Hulk Hogan in his successful lawsuit against Gawker, which ended with a $140 million judgment against the now-defunct gossip site for invasion of privacy when it published a sex tape supposedly taken without the entertainer’s knowledge.
According to the early details of Weinstein’s lawsuit against the NYT, the newspaper rushed to publish the story without enough verification of certain key facts, as it was afraid of losing the scoop to a rival publication. Weinstein’s lawyers will also argue that the newspaper reneged on an agreement that it would give the movie mogul a chance to rebut their claims.
In at least one case of alleged harassment, the lawsuit will argue the NYT based its report on an old employee complaint that was subsequently debunked by nine other eyewitnesses.
In a statement to the New York Post, Harder claimed: “We sent the Times the facts and evidence, but they ignored it and rushed to publish.” Harder added that any damages awarded to Weinstein will be donated to women’s organizations.