The utter villainy of Harvey Weinstein seems to know no bounds. According to Variety’s reporting of Weinstein’s Los Angeles sexual assault trial, attorney Mark Werksman has launched a particularly vicious and nasty defense of the former film producer, which paradoxically includes painting his own client as an unattractive “beast” and normalizing the infamous “casting couch” process.
The most flattering image Werksman conjured was that of Weinstein as a man from humble beginnings who worked hard to create his empire. “With tremendous fame and fortune came fame of fortune seekers,” including women who had “consensual sex with Mr. Weinstein because they wanted to exploit their connection with Mr. Weinstein” or “sex in exchange for something with value.”
“Look at my client. He’s not Brad Pitt or George Clooney. Do you think these beautiful women had sex with him because he’s hot? No, it’s because he’s powerful,” Werksman said, per Variety. “Transactional sex … it may have been unpleasant … and now embarrassing. [But] everyone did it. He did it. They did it.”
Normalizing a culture wherein women feel pressured to exchange sex in order to move up in the business seems like a shoddy defense, though it would surely be a great favor to Hollywood’s remaining predators should that argument succeed. “The sequel to the casting couch is the #MeToo trial,” Werksman proclaimed, saying of the women set to testify, “They will play the part of the damsel in distress with this beast.”
One of those women is Jennifer Siebel Newsom, wife of California governor Gavin Newsom. Variety reports that Werksman singled her out specifically, noting that Weinstein donated frequently to Newsom’s political ambitions over the years and even hosted the couple at his home: “She brought her husband to meet and party with her rapist. Who does that? He took money from his wife’s rapist for his political campaigns,” Werksman argued.
(One might compare the situation to Brad Pitt, a producer on the upcoming Weinstein exposé film She Said, who continued to work with Weinstein after being informed of his sexual misconduct towards two of his own partners. Perhaps Newsom didn’t know about his wife’s experience, or perhaps some men are willing to excuse such behavior if dollar signs are involved.)
Perhaps most egregiously, Werksman said that if Siebel Newsom hadn’t become a political figure and a voice against sexual harassment and assault, “She’d be just another bimbo who slept with Harvey Weinstein to get ahead.” Whether such outright cruelty will play well with the jury remains to be seen.