Harvey Weinstein accused of sexual harassment in explosive story, takes leave of absence

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An explosive New York Times story Thursday aired allegations of sexual harassment against the famed movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who told the publication he would take a leave of absence from his studio, the Weinstein Company.

The Times story is remarkable not just because it uncovered that Weinstein reached at least eight settlements with women over the years, but also because a very high-profile figure - Ashley Judd - went on record. Her story dates back to the 1990s, when, she said, Weinstein lured her to his hotel room for a "meeting" then tried to coerce her into giving him a massage or watching him shower.

"Women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time, and it's simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly," Judd told the Times.

Weinstein's lawyer, Charles Harder, said the famed movie producer plans to sue the newspaper, telling the Hollywood Reporter that the Times story is riddled with inaccuracies.

"It relies on mostly hearsay accounts and a faulty report, apparently stolen from an employee personnel file, which has been debunked by 9 different eyewitnesses," Harder told THR in an email. "We sent the Times the facts and evidence, but they ignored it and rushed to publish. We are preparing the lawsuit now. All proceeds will be donated to women's organizations."

A call to Harder's law office was not immediately returned, nor was a request for comment from the Times.

This response is somewhat at odds with Weinstein's own statement to the Times, which was at least partially contrite.

"I appreciate the way I've behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it," Weinstein told the Times. "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."

He also said his issues stemmed, in part, from the fact that he "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."

Another lawyer advising him, Lisa Bloom, was quoted in the Times as saying that Weinstein "denies many of the accusations as patently false," which gave some readers of the story pause, because it avoided refuting all of the claims.

Before starting the Weinstein Company, Weinstein co-founded Miramax films in 1979 with his brother, Bob, producing beloved indie movies and awards hopefuls. He was infamous for his brash, volatile style, but was also renowned for shepherding low-budget movies like "Pulp Fiction," "Sex, Lies and Videotape" and "Clerks" to massive success - or at least cult status. He was particularly aggressive when awards season came around, shelling out major money to ensure "Shakespeare in Love" beat out "Saving Private Ryan" for best picture during the 1999 Oscars.

He was also famous for his politics, a vocal liberal who donated to many of Hillary Clinton's campaigns; Malia Obama even interned for him in New York earlier this year.

The statement that Weinstein sent to the Times is a mix of remorse, rap lyrics, and an attempt to distract from his indiscretions by bringing up his fury at the NRA. Most importantly, it doesn't contradict the allegations.

After blaming an outdated culture for enabling him, Weinstein wrote that "I have since learned it's not an excuse, in the office - or out of it. To anyone."

Misquoting Jay-Z's "4:44," he said, "I'm not the man I thought I was and I better be that man for my children."

Weinstein has five children, including two with his current wife, Marchesa co-founder Georgina Chapman.

The statement then pivots completely, as Weinstein delves into how he would be channeling his anger going forward: He'll be targeting the NRA, including the organization's CEO Wayne LaPierre. Weinstein vowed to one day throw LaPierre a retirement party - "at the same place I had my Bar Mitzvah" - and said he was also planning a movie about President Donald Trump.

"Perhaps we can make it a joint retirement party," he wrote.

Before signing off, he wanted to assure people that his efforts to support female directors, including a $5 million foundation at USC, isn't an act of penance, despite how it might look.

"While this might seem coincidental, it has been in the works for a year," he said. "It will be named after my mom, and I won't disappoint her."