After nearly a week of silence from liberal Hollywood types in the wake of a New York Times exposé that revealed how movie mogul Harvey Weinstein had committed decades of sexual harassment and reached financial settlements with at least eight different women, actor George Clooney decided to speak out against his longtime friend and mentor.
Clooney has Weinstein to credit for his “first big break” in Hollywood, he told The Daily Beast on Monday, but he felt compelled to tell the public that he was completely unaware that Weinstein was a serial pervert around many women.
“It’s indefensible. That’s the only word you can start with. Harvey’s admitted to it, and it’s indefensible,” stated Clooney, who added, “I’ve known Harvey for 20 years. He gave me my first big break as an actor in [the] film … From Dusk Till Dawn, he gave me my first big break as a director with Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. We’ve had dinners, we’ve been on location together, we’ve had arguments. But I can tell you that I’ve never seen any of this behavior—ever.”
Clooney went on to admit, “A lot of people are doing the ‘you had to know’ thing right now, and yes, if you’re asking if I knew that someone who was very powerful had a tendency to hit on young, beautiful women, sure. But I had no idea that it had gone to the level of having to pay off eight women for their silence, and that these women were threatened and victimized.”
The actor-turned-director is the first prominent Hollywood icon who’s worked with Weinstein to call the man out. Meanwhile, Weinstein benefactors Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Quentin Tarantino have remained conspicuously silent.
Clooney acknowledged having “heard rumors” since the 90s that “certain actresses had slept with Harvey to get a role,” but he said he viewed such rumors as a way to “smear the actresses and demean them by saying that they didn’t get the jobs based on their talent.”
Clooney said he thinks the scandal can be turned into a call to action and is looking for “something good to come out of this … victims have to feel safer to come out and tell their stories without the fear of losing their jobs, and they also need to be believed, which is a very important element of this.”
Calling sexual harassment “a moral issue,” Clooney stated, “We’re all going to have to be more diligent about it and look for any warning signs. Before, people weren’t paying enough attention to it. Now we have to. This is the moment to start scaring people like this into not acting this way anymore.”
Noting that the problem is “not just in Hollywood, although Hollywood is now the focus,” Clooney said that it’s important “in all of these cases the victims … feel that they will be listened to and that they don’t need to be afraid.”
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