As you know, on October 5, the New York Times broke the news (or rather, reported extensively on an open secret and got on-the-record confirmation from famous actresses) about years of sexual harassment claims about producer Harvey Weinstein.
One of Weinstein’s lawyers, Lisa Bloom, entirely coincidentally the author of a book that Weinstein had optioned as a mini-series, seemed to pooh-pooh the accusations. She called him “an old dinosaur learning new ways.” He’s a little dinosaur! He is real old, don’t you know? Born ten billion years ago! But they don’t love him here enough and so he’s planning to go away!
Weinstein simultaneously apologized and threatened to sue the New York Times. (The New Yorker is supposedly soon to publish a similar story, so presumably Weinstein will threaten that publication too.) Here’s his apology. (As we analyze it, do us a solid and spurt the word “allegedly” all over this post.)
I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, 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. To anyone.
I realized some time ago that I needed to be a better person and my interactions with the people I work with have changed.
I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it.
Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go. That is my commitment. My journey now will be to learn about myself and conquer my demons. Over the last year I’ve asked Lisa Bloom to tutor me and she’s put together a team of people. I’ve brought on therapists and I plan to take a leave of absence from my company and to deal with this issue head on. I so respect all women and regret what happened. I hope that my actions will speak louder than words and that one day we will all be able to earn their trust and sit down together with Lisa to learn more. Jay Z wrote in 4:44 “I’m not the man I thought I was and I better be that man for my children.” The same is true for me. I want a second chance in the community but I know I’ve got work to do to earn it. I have goals that are now priorities. Trust me, this isn’t an overnight process. I’ve been trying to do this for 10 years and this is a wake-up call. I cannot be more remorseful about the people I hurt and I plan to do right by all of them.
I am going to need a place to channel that anger so I’ve decided that I’m going to give the NRA my full attention. I hope Wayne LaPierre will enjoy his retirement party. I’m going to do it at the same place I had my Bar Mitzvah. I’m making a movie about our President, perhaps we can make it a joint retirement party. One year ago, I began organizing a $5 million foundation to give scholarships to women directors at USC. While this might seem coincidental, it has been in the works for a year. It will be named after my mom and I won’t disappoint her.
A quick summary of all the nope:
Lead with the apology, not the rationalizations. The word “apologize” doesn’t come until the fourth paragraph. Coming of age in what was apparently a Mad-Men-like world of endless groping of unwilling women is not an excuse. Plenty of 65-year-old men have somehow refrained from answering doors naked and publicly jerking off into potted plants.
“That was the culture then” is SO TOTALLY Lance Armstrong. (“I didn’t invent the culture, but I didn’t try to stop the culture, and that’s my mistake, and that’s what I have to be sorry for.”) When apologizing, do not emulate Lance Armstrong.
Stop with the “journey.” This is not a hero’s journey; don’t frame it as such. In the folklore of many cultures, the journey narrative involves a naive youth, frequently scorned as lacking in power or knowledge, receiving a mission to save others, going on a dangerous quest armed with little but wits and ethics, vanquishing monsters, returning a hero. This is…not that. “Journey” is a wildly overused word in American recovery language.
Paragraph 5 reads like a user’s manual of what an abuser (of drugs, racist language, other people’s trust, you name it) is supposed to say, but it’s delivered in an odd, staccato, fragmented way. Presumably the act of saying you’re getting help without spelling out exactly what for can lead to some awkward sentence construction. Also, telling us you respect women despite the whole groping thing that may or may not have happened feels kind of iffy. (As the New York Times pointed out, neither Weinstein nor Bloom disputed the content of the accusations — at least not initially. We’ll get back to this.)
As for “I regret what happened”…how many times does SorryWatch have to say that this is not how you apologize? Say you regret what you did. Say you regret the way you made others feel vulnerable, worthless, objectified, threatened and small. Say that you paid off at least eight women. Name your acts. Apologize by name, publicly and privately, to the people you hurt (and presumably there are more who were afraid to confront you, report you, or pursue legal action — if you happen to recall who they are, apologize to them, too).
You want “a second chance in the community”? How about a second chance closer to home? Where is the apology to your wife, your former wife, your five children? Are they part of the community, thereby not deserving their own shout-out?
Why did you misquote Jay-Z? (Also, learn to spell his name.)
No one who says “trust me” is trustworthy.
“I cannot be more remorseful”? That sounds kind of defeatist, Harv. Try harder.
The last paragraph is a doozy. The abrupt pivot to “I am going to need a place to channel that anger” is confusing. What “anger,” exactly, is Weinstein channeling? The anger of being caught? The anger of being called to task? He doesn’t actually say “the anger I feel at myself for my hateful actions”; the minimalist “that anger” feels as though there’s a substantive modifier missing.
WAIT, WHAT? How did the NRA get in here? Why are you making hack-y Bar Mitzvah jokes? You’re threatening someone else (even if it’s Wayne LaPierre) in a response to others seeing you as a threatening figure? Is this a way of saying “you think I’m bad, what about that guy?”
What is this “making a movie about our president” mishegas? If I need to Google references in your public apology, it’s too inside baseball to be a public apology. And SCREEEEEEEECH, it’s another pivot to “I love and respect the ladies”! Informing all and sundry that you give aspiring young female screenwriters money? Plus invoking the holy sanctity of the word “mother” as a dog-whistle about your good manners and morals? (The part of me that wrote a book about the Jewish Mother stereotype also wonders if Weinstein’s bringing up “mother” and “Bar Mitzvah” in the same paragraph is a way to invoke stereotypes of nebbish-y, non-powerful, henpecked Jewish men unable to harm a fly because they’re so dominated by powerful women.)
And of course, the simultaneous issuing of an apology and the threat of a lawsuit is not at all suspect. Weinstein’s attorney told The Hollywood Reporter that the NYT story relied on “hearsay accounts” and a “faulty report, apparently stolen from an employee personnel file, which has been debunked by nine different eyewitnesses.” Weinstein himself told The Wrap, “I mean every word of that apology. The reason I am suing the New York Times is they didn’t give me enough time to respond.” His lawyer, Lisa Bloom, said — not helping her own case much — that “they gave us a couple dozen allegations that spanned 30 years and a dozen countries.” (I can see how two and a half days would not be long enough to respond to dozens of accusations in dozens of countries over dozens of years, yes.)
Wait, make that former lawyer Lisa Bloom. She quit after an explosion of social media blowback, as well as criticism from her ACTUAL MOM, victims’ rights attorney Gloria Allred. Allred observed that she herself would not represent an accused predator like Weinstein, and in fact, she’d be willing to go toe-to-toe with her daughter in a courtroom as opposing counsel.
It’ll be interesting, I suppose, to see if Weinstein tries a different apology strategy now that one lawyer, a different lawyer, and a third of his board have quit. Maybe he’ll continue to bluster about suing while not-really-apologizing. Honestly, I’ve lived in a human female body on this planet for too long to get invested in what happens to this one dude. There are so many more where he came from.