Despite staying mostly quiet and out of sight over the last few months—as his name swiftly became synonymous with a culture of sexual harassment and assault that’s slowly revealed itself to be rampant in the Hollywood ecosystem—Harvey Weinstein decided to open his mouth tonight, in an effort to refute the words of one of his most strident accusers, Rose McGowan. Speaking through a lawyer, Weinstein called assertions laid out in McGowan’s new book, Brave—that he coerced and undressed her before sexually assaulting her in a Utah hot tub—a “bold lie.”
Weinstein went so far as to quote “witnesses” in his attack on McGowan’s account, bringing up an email exchange with the actress’ manager at the time, Jill Messick. According to Messick—who worked under Weinsten at Miramax for several years after the incident—she said that McGowan told her the incident between herself and the producer was “consensual”:
When we met up the following day, she hesitantly told me of her own accord that during the meeting that night before she had gotten into a hot tub with Mr. Weinstein. She was very clear about the fact that getting into that hot tub was something that she did consensually and that in hindsight it was also something that she regretted having done.
Given everything we’ve heard, from numerous women in recent months, about the mechanisms that people use to cope with harassment and assault—including acts of denial, both to themselves, and to others—it seems borderline baffling that Weinstein would think this sort of statement constitutes “proof” that he did nothing wrong; even if the account is 100 percent accurate, it still suggests that he coerced a woman into actions she found deeply regrettable.
Meanwhile, Weinstein also tapped his old protege Ben Affleck, who’s hovered uncomfortably on the outskirts of this particular story for months, attempting to deflect attention away from himself by going through the motions of the now-requisite “I have a daughter” talk. McGowan says in her book—and has stated as much before, on Twitter—that she told Affleck about the incident the day after it happened. But not according to an email quoted by Weinstein, in which the actor states, “She never told me nor did I ever infer that she was attacked by anyone. Any accounts to the contrary are false. I have no knowledge about anything Rose did or claimed to have done.”
McGowan began doing interviews to promote her book earlier this week.