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Harvey Weinstein: Did everyone really know?

Harvey Weinstein: Did everyone really know?
From BBC - October 12, 2017

When actor Seth MacFarlane announced the Oscar nominations for best supporting actress in 2013, he cracked a now infamous joke: "Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein."

At the time, it was a rare public reference to what has since become a very public scandal.

And it is a telling sign that Weinstein's alleged behaviour was - as it's been repeatedly described in the past week - Hollywood's "open secret".

But how many people knew what was going on, and why was not it reported sooner?

MacFarlane has explained that he made the quip after his Ted co-star Jessica Barth told him about Weinstein's attempted advances two years earlier.

The actress told The New Yorker the mogul tried to persuade her to give him a naked massage in bed. She walked out.

Actress Lea Seydoux, writing in The Guardian about how Weinstein "suddenly jumped on me" in his hotel room, also recalled how she had seen him "hitting on" other young women and trying to convince them to sleep with him at parties.

"Everyone could see what he was doing," she wrote. "That's the most disgusting thing. Everyone knew what Harvey was up to and no one did anything.

"It's unbelievable that he's been able to act like this for decades and still keep his career. That's only possible because he has a huge amount of power."

Weinstein has denied any non-consensual sexual contact with any women.

But allegations of improper behaviour were common knowledge among some who worked for him, according to the New York Times.

When the paper broke the story, it reported that dozens of his former and current employees, from assistants to top executives, "said they knew of inappropriate conduct while they worked for him".

"It was not a secret to the inner circle," Kathy DeClesis, a former assistant to Weinstein's brother and business partner Bob, told the paper.

One of the common themes of the accounts that have emerged is that Weinstein employees would set up meetings with young women and often accompany them to hotel rooms before disappearing and leaving the women and the producer alone.

The New York Times related how a young female employee quit after complaining of being forced to arrange what she believed to be assignations for him. She said she could not comment because she had signed a non-disclosure agreement.

Many people have suggested such employees could have gone public. But Weinstein was one of the most powerful men in Hollywood and his domineering persona -aside from any sexual harassment - was legendary.

In a memo quoted by the paper, another former employee, Lauren O'Connor, described the experiences of women at the company, including herself. She wrote: "The balance of power is me: 0, Harvey Weinstein: 10."

What about those in Hollywood and New York beyond Weinstein's own companies? Stories of his sexual advances spread among actors, agents and others in the film industry.

Many celebrities who have commented in recent days have said they did not know what was going on, even if they knew he had a sleazy reputation.

Oscar-nominated actress Annette Bening told BBC Radio 4's Front Row she knew he was "boorish" - but was not aware of what went on behind closed doors.

British producer Alison Owen, who has worked on films like Saving Mr Banks and Suffragette, told BBC News his behaviour was "an open secret".

"Everyone had heard the stories about Harvey," she said. "If you were in the film industry, there was no way you could not have heard those stories about Harvey.

"I never heard a story from the horse's mouth. But there were always stories about, 'Oh an actress told me', or 'Someone working at Harvey's company told me', or 'Did you hear about that intern who worked for Harvey?'

"So they were always second-hand but they were many and multifarious."

Accusers 'backed out'

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