Harvey Weinstein was fired from his position at the Weinstein Company on Sunday night, a decision made by the company’s board after watching him flail wildly in the the face of well-documented allegations that he’d been sexually abusing women for years. Why, some critics have said, didn’t this story come out sooner? To ask that question is to misunderstand precisely how much influence a man like Weinstein can wield.
Sharon Waxman, a former New York Times reporter who founded the Wrap, wrote yesterday that’d she’d tried to report the story of Weinstein’s sexual misconduct way back in 2004, and even traveled to Europe to talk to a man employed by Miramax Italy specifically to look out for Weinstein’s “women needs.” While there, she spoke off-the-record with a woman in London who had been paid off following an unwanted sexual encounter with Weinstein. She had a paper trail and, she thought, a story.
After intense pressure from Weinstein, which included having Matt Damon and Russell Crowe call me directly to vouch for Lombardo and unknown discussions well above my head at the Times, the story was gutted.
I was told at the time that Weinstein had visited the newsroom in person to make his displeasure known. I knew he was a major advertiser in the Times, and that he was a powerful person overall.
When she followed up, she was told the story was unimportant:
The Times’ then-culture editor Jon Landman, now an editor-at-large for Bloomberg, thought the story was unimportant, asking me why it mattered.
“He’s not a publicly elected official,” he told me. I explained, to no avail, that a public company would certainly have a problem with a procurer on the payroll for hundreds of thousands of dollars. At the time, Disney told me they had no idea Lombardo existed.
Landman responded to Waxman’s account in Politico:
“Sharon has now had more than a decade to pursue this story unencumbered by me or any New York Times editor,” Landman told POLITICO. “Why, if she had the goods on Weinstein in 2004, has she been unable or unwilling to publish something in the Wrap, where she was in charge? Could it be because she didn’t actually have the goods then, now or in between?”
He added that he does not remember the conversation Waxman cites in her story, saying that “It seems pretty unlikely that it ever happened as she relates it because, really, I do know that you don’t have to be an elected official to be a public figure who is a legitimate focus of journalistic inquiry.”
But Waxman’s story seems far from unlikely, particularly when one considers this sniveling plea Weinstein apparently sent just ahead of his ouster:
At a time when someone else might be at their most contrite, Weinstein’s sole focus remains fixed on saving himself. Only this time, no one is coming to rescue him.