BOOK REVIEW: Brave, honest ‘She Said’ a primer in how to uncover painful truths
Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey
Penguin Random House LLC
Copyright © 2019 by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey
Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, two Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporters at the New York Times begin “She Said” with critically important context. By 2017, women had gained more power than ever before: “The number of jobs once held almost exclusively by men — police officer, soldier, airline pilot — had narrowed almost to a vanishing point. Women led nations including Germany and the United Kingdom, and companies such as General Motors and PepsiCo.” And yet, as they began the Harvey Weinstein investigation: “all too often, women were sexually harassed with impunity. Female scientists and waitresses, cheerleaders, executives, and factory workers had to smile past gropes, leers, or unwelcome advances to get the next tip, paycheck, or raise. Sexual harassment was against the law—but it was also routine in some jobs. Women who spoke up were frequently dismissed or denigrated. Victims were often hidden and isolated from one another. Their best option, many people agreed, was to accept money as some form of reparation, in exchange for silence.”
And quite remarkably: “The perpetrators, meanwhile, frequently sailed to ever-higher levels of success and praise. Harassers were often accepted, or even cheered, as mischievous bad boys. Serious consequences were rare.” (Emphasis added.)
In a world where we are constantly told that the News is Fake, “She Said” is a triumph for those who work tirelessly and with integrity to report real and important events. More than just news, “She Said” is a compelling detective story, a primer in how to uncover painful truths. It is a brave book and honest about how difficult it is to do this kind of journalism. The authors readily admit their doubts, the pressures, the failures, and remind us of the unending need for stubborn perseverance.
Over three years, from 2016 to 2019, the authors conducted hundreds of interviews, reviewed thousands of pages of documents in an investigation that moved from President Trump’s treatment of women, Harvey Weinstein’s decades of abuse to Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations against Brett Kavanaugh.
We owe Kantor and Twohey a debt of gratitude for not wavering in the face of so many obstacles. There’s the completely understandable reluctance of the victims to discuss, and therefore re-experience, their dreadful trauma. There’s the persistent, sometimes diabolical efforts of the perpetrators and accomplices to prevent these stories from being told, to smear and intimidate victims and investigators alike.
Just as I was reading “She Said,” I read a report in the Washington Post about a public event in DC to publicize the book. The Post’s Bob Woodward was interviewing the authors when: “About 20 minutes in, things got awkward. As Woodward repeatedly interrupted the authors to ask questions or clarify facts, audible murmurs rippled through the crowd. Eventually, one attendee yelled, ‘You’re interrupting her!’ as many applauded in agreement.”
I’ve never met Woodward and appreciate the good work he’s done as a journalist, but Woodward might have avoided this regrettable collision had he paid more attention to how Kantor and Twohey described the critical stakes of their undertaking: “The #MeToo movement is an example of social change in our time but is also a test of it: In this fractured environment, will all of us be able to forge a new set of mutually fair rules and protections? … Unlike some journalistic investigations that deal with locked-away government or corporate secrets, this one is about experiences many of us recognize from our own lives, workplaces, families, and schools. But we wrote this book to bring you as close as we could to ground zero.”
The Post continues: “The atmosphere became uncomfortable … when Woodward asked about the reasons for Weinstein’s behavior. ‘If you spent all the time on him, you have to ask the question, which you really don’t address in the book, and that is: Why did he behave this way?’ Woodward asked. ‘I know you’re not psychiatrists or psychologists, but share with us the “Why?” … because there’s so many strange things he does.’
“‘That’s a good question — I think we could spend days or weeks or even months trying to get to the bottom of his psychology,’ Twohey said, adding that the question applies to the psychology of Weinstein’s enablers as well. This led into a discussion of his brother, Bob Weinstein, who begged Harvey to get help. ‘You’re artfully dodging the question,’ Woodward said, and the audience started rumbling.
“‘I’ll tell you what we know. It’s that this story is an X-ray into power, and how power works,’ Kantor said, as the crowd erupted into loud applause. ‘It’s also about sex, isn’t it?’ Woodward asked. ‘No!’ several attendees yelled at the same time. ‘It’s not about sex in the romantic sense,’ Kantor said, adding that ‘part of the way it’s about power is that it’s about work.’ She noted that some of their sources were harassed as soon as their first day on the job.”
Sadly, Woodward, who had stumbled into his own #MeToo ground zero, seemed more interested in why Weinstein was an abuser than about the experiences of those abused, imagining “He Did,” a book he might have written, not “She Said,” the book they wrote. In their book, Kantor and Twohey tell a terrifying tale of a wide variety of women who were tricked into Harvey Weinstein’s lair only to find themselves besieged, cajoled, brow-beaten and assaulted.
Just to be crystal clear, as “She Said” reveals, there is nothing about Harvey Weinstein’s behavior that vaguely resembles sex as most of us know it. There is nothing consensual about it. There is nothing kind or caring about his actions. This is not about mutual pleasure, but cruelty and violence and humiliation. Harassment is the best it ever is. Rape is the worst it is.
I must admit this crucial misunderstanding has stayed with me. There is so much in “She Said” that I’m going to leave to you to discover, but for now I’m going to concentrate on the Harvey Weinstein piece of their puzzle. In every respect, “She Said” is so very important and yet so very difficult to read because it shines a light on the very darkest side of humanity. It’s a tale about abuse, physical and mental, and, in the Weinstein case, the despicable and diabolical exercise of power and coercion over the women in his office, the women he encounters, and the women who worked so hard to make careers in the world of film. And ultimately it’s about victims reclaiming power, a #MeToo movement, fighting back and the redemptive power of truth-telling.
Kantor and Twohey emphasize: “Harvey Weinstein had long conscripted some of the people and practices of his illustrious companies—from lawyers to assistants, contracts to work expenses—to further his predation or hide it. Some employees knew little or nothing as they worked on movie marketing posters and release dates. But over that two-year period, Reiter, the company’s most active board member, and Weinstein’s own brother and business partner all became increasingly aware and worried about allegations of sexual harassment and abuse against Weinstein. One by one, they all failed to address the problem, and the producer showed a remarkable ability to create his own reality, to make a series of problems simply disappear.
“How could a company become so deeply complicit in abuse?” (Emphasis added.)
Much credit, we learn, goes to actress Rose McGowan, who, over the course of a year, had tweeted about her rape at the hands of Weinstein, then found herself attacked and victimized all over again.
Many Americans didn’t know who Harvey Weinstein was. But: “Over and over, he had propelled young actors to stardom: Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Michelle Williams, and Jennifer Lawrence. He could turn tiny independent movies like ‘Sex, Lies, and Videotape’ or ‘The Crying Game’ into phenomena …” And he had parlayed his remarkable influence in the entertainment business into the world of politics, developing a wide network of powerful friends: “His record of raising money for Hillary Clinton, and flanking her at countless fund-raisers, was almost two decades long. When Malia Obama had sought an internship in film, she worked for ‘Harvey’ — first name only, used even by many strangers. By 2017, even though his movies were less successful than they used to be, his reputation remained outsized.”
Meanwhile, in this the age of unmitigated hypocrisy, “Weinstein boasted of feminist credentials. He had just given a large donation to help endow a professorship in Gloria Steinem’s name. His company had distributed ‘The Hunting Ground,’ a documentary and rallying cry about campus sexual assault …”
McGowan, once she learned of Jodi Kantor’s successful experience investigating the widespread mistreatment of women in corporate America and academia, told her the following story: Having appeared in several independent films, “one of the ingenues of the moment,” she attended the Sundance Film Festival, and sat beside Weinstein at a screening. “Afterward, he had asked for a meeting with her, which made sense … She went to see him at the Stein Eriksen Lodge Deer Valley, in Park City, where they met in his room. Nothing happened except the usual talk about films and roles, she said.
“But on the way out, Weinstein pulled her into a room with a hot tub, stripped her on the edge, and forced his face between her legs, according to McGowan. She said she remembered feeling like she was leaving her body, floating up to the ceiling and observing the scene from above. ‘I was just feeling massive shock, I was going into survival mode,’ she said. To get away, McGowan said, she faked an orgasm and mentally gave herself step-by-step instructions: ‘Turn the door handle.’ ‘Walk out of this meeting.’
“Within a few days, she said, Weinstein had left a message on her home phone in Los Angeles with a creepy offer: Other big female stars were his special friends, and she could join his club as well. Shocked and distraught, McGowan had complained to her managers, hired a lawyer, and ended up with a $100,000 settlement from Weinstein — essentially, a payment to make the matter go away, without any admission of wrongdoing on his part — which she said she had donated to a rape crisis center. ‘Did she have her records from the settlement?’ ‘They never gave me a copy,’ she said …
We learn that: “Before the Times would even consider publishing McGowan’s allegations, they would need to be buttressed, and, finally, taken to Weinstein. He would have to be given an opportunity to respond … He would easily be able to say that he remembered things differently, that she had appeared to enjoy herself. He would have the perfect evidence: her faked orgasm … But McGowan said she had gotten a settlement. Finding any record of it would be difficult, but there had been lawyers, a signed agreement, money that changed hands, the donation to the rape crisis center. The agreement had to be documented somewhere …
“The task was to find out whether other woman had similar experiences with Weinstein … The few times Jodi got actresses on the phone, the conversations were mostly short and unproductive … Some of the former employees gave lectures: Harvey Weinstein’s sex life was his private business. The ‘casting couch,’ or the practice of actresses submitting to producers and directors in exchange for roles, was as old as Hollywood itself, an unpleasant but permanent part of the business, they said …”
Then Lisa Bloom, an attorney herself and daughter of feminist lawyer Gloria Allred, reached out to Kantor. Kantor imagined Bloom might have learned of their investigation and might have important information. “Jodi forwarded the email to her colleague Emily Steel … [who] called with a warning. Bloom was in business with Weinstein, she said … Bloom had posted a gushing tweet … ‘My book SUSPICION NATION is being made into a miniseries, produced by Harvey Weinstein and Jay Z!’ … Weinstein knew what the Times was working on …” The counterattack had begun.
Ashley Judd was in her 20s in 1996 when “she was directed to meet Weinstein in a suite, where he had a bottle of champagne on ice … They made small talk, and ‘I got myself out of there as fast as I could’ … Days later, he issued another invitation, this time to a breakfast meeting … A conversation so early in the morning would surely be safe … She had been up all night filming her first big thriller, ‘Kiss the Girls,’ with Morgan Freeman … [Told] she would be meeting with the producer in his suite, instead of the restaurant, she was annoyed …
“Weinstein was in a bathrobe, which was not what she expected. He wanted to give her a massage. She refused. He countered by suggesting a shoulder rub. She rejected that too … Weinstein’s requests turned even more overtly sexual, she said. She refused each one, but he kept going. ‘I said no, a lot of ways, a lot of times, and he always came back at me with some slimy ask,’ she said. His movements were almost like military commands, she told Jodi, with a chop-chop quality, first you go here, and then you go there. Finally, he raised the possibility of her watching him take a shower, as if that was some sort of compromise.
“She recalled feeling trapped in the room and fearful of hurting her film prospects. ‘There’s a lot on the line, the cachet that came with Miramax,’ she said. She needed an exit strategy, a way of getting away from Weinstein. ‘I’ll make you a deal, Harvey,’ she recalled saying. ‘When I win an Academy Award in a Miramax movie, I’ll give you a blow job,’ she said, before exiting …
“To rebuff the producer was to risk career consequences. So she had quickly come up with a joke that wouldn’t offend him while finding a way to leave safely … Soon after, she described what happened to her mother, the singer Naomi Judd; her father; her agent; and later on, other confidantes …
Gwyneth Paltrow shared the shadow side of her relationship with Weinstein, which began when he praised her acting at the Toronto Film Festival: “You have to come work for us, she remembered him saying. You’re really talented … If she would do a comedy called ‘The Pallbearer,’ Weinstein said, she could also have the lead in his upcoming adaptation of Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’—a dream job, a star-making role … [Then] she got a fax from her representatives at Creative Artists Agency, telling her to meet Weinstein at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills …
“‘I bounced up there, I’m sort of like a golden retriever, all happy to see Harvey,’ she said. They talked business. But Weinstein closed by placing his hands on her and asking to go into the bedroom and exchange massages. Paltrow could barely process what was happening … She had thought of Weinstein as an uncle. The thought that he was interested in her sexually shocked her and made her feel queasy. He asked a second time to move into the bedroom, she said.
“She excused herself, but ‘not so he would feel he had done something wrong’ she said. As soon as she left, she told [boyfriend] Brad Pitt what had happened, then a few friends, family members, and her agent … Weeks later, when Paltrow and Pitt attended the same theater premiere as Weinstein, Pitt confronted the producer and told him to keep his hands to himself. At the time, Paltrow felt relieved: Her boyfriend was her protector.
“But when she returned to New York, Weinstein called and threatened her, berating her for telling Pitt what had happened. ‘He said some version of I’m going to ruin your career,’ she said. She remembered standing in her old apartment on Prince Street in SoHo, fearful she would lose the two roles, especially the starring one in ‘Emma.’ ‘I was nothing, I was a kid, I was signed up. I was petrified, I thought he was going to fire me,’ she said.
“‘The more successful her partnership with Weinstein became, the less she felt she could say about the ugly episode at the start of their collaboration … ‘I was expected to keep the secret.’ … [Then in 2016] he began to pressure her again. New York magazine was working on an exposé of his treatment of women. They have nothing, Weinstein told Paltrow. He wanted her to promise that she wouldn’t talk about the incident at the Peninsula all those years before. ‘I just really want to protect the people who did say yes,’ he said, meaning women who had succumbed to his overtures. Paltrow declined the magazine’s interview request, but she avoided saying whether she would ever speak …” (Emphasis added.)
There’s a particularly grotesque aspect to the “She Said” story: the power of the Non-Disclosure Agreement to silence the abused and prevent other women from learning what they might have to face from Weinstein. Agreements “essentially paying victims to keep quiet … the language of the deals made them look less like aboveboard legal transactions and more like cover-ups. The agreements included one restrictive clause after another. The women were obliged to turn over all their evidence—audio recordings, diaries, emails, backup files, any other shred of proof …”
Kantor and Twohey explain: “They needed the money, craved privacy, didn’t see better options, or just wanted to move on … The alternative, taking this kind of lawsuit to court, was punishing. Federal sexual harassment laws were weak, leaving out vast categories of people—freelancers, employees at workplaces with fewer than fifteen employees …
“The deals worked out for the lawyers too, especially financially … taking at least one-third of the client’s award as a fee … So sexual harassment settlements had swelled into a cottage industry …”
Beyond the famous actresses victimized by Weinstein were those women victims who worked for his company. Enter Irwin Reiter, the Company’s executive VP for accounting and financial reporting: “Reiter heard rumors of ‘affairs’ between the producer and actresses but felt unsure about who was taking advantage of whom … Until 2014, when he became more alarmed … [and] picked up some worrisome office chatter about Weinstein’s behavior toward women …
“In light of the [Bill] Cosby news, Reiter felt he had to intervene. He wasn’t yet grappling with whether women had been hurt or how. He was anxious about the state of The Weinstein Company, which projected an image of success—it made prestige hits like ‘The King’s Speech,’ and the television show ‘Project Runway’—but was more precarious than outsiders knew, with many failed projects and hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. A sex abuse scandal could send it on a path to destruction. (Emphasis added.)
Reiter heard from Sandeep Rehal, Weinstein’s personal assistant ordered to use his corporate credit card to rent him a furnished apartment, stock it with women’s lingerie … She had to maintain a ‘Friends of Harvey’ roster of women, and schedule their comings and goings.
“[And] procure and organize Weinstein’s personal supply of an erectile dysfunction drug called Caverject, administered through injection into the penis … He had implied there would be consequences if she told anyone about these duties, mentioning her student loans and where her younger sister attended school, and saying he could have her kicked out. Staying silent would come with rewards, he suggested. ‘You are at Harvey Weinstein University, and I decide if you graduate,’ he told her, she said. Soon Rehal left the company, and Reiter did not hear from her again. (Emphasis added.)
A critical question for Kantor and Twohey: “if Harvey Weinstein had entered into settlements with women besides Rose McGowan, and if those claims had been hushed up by lawyers, could those women even be found?” And their Non-Disclosure Agreements.
Jodi found the answer “in London, sitting across a restaurant table from Zelda Perkins … In 1995 … She was only twenty-two years old and … Weinstein had harassed Perkins from practically the first day, she said. ‘He was pathologically addicted to conquering women,’ she said. ‘That was what got him out of bed in the morning.’ … Each morning, Perkins, or whichever assistant from the London office was on the early shift, had to rouse the partially or fully nude Weinstein out of bed in his hotel room … Sometimes Weinstein tried to pull Perkins into bed with him, she recalled …
“In 1998, Perkins hired another assistant, Rowena Chiu, an aspiring producer … Perkins warned her to be careful around the producer. That September, the two women flew to Italy for the Venice Film Festival … [Soon] Chiu confided the disturbing details of what Weinstein had done to her … Perkins teared up, said it was unconscionable …”
Chui “had worn two pairs of tights as protection. But as she tried to work, he interrupted with an escalating series of sexual requests, for massages, a bath. She tried to appease him by taking off one set of tights and letting him massage her, she said. When his hands wandered further, she protested that she wanted to get back to the scripts, that she had a boyfriend. He responded by making grandiose promises of career help for him as well.
“‘This continued for four hours,’ she said: She would push back to work, and then he would resume pressuring and touching her, saying that they could have oral sex, that he had never had sex with a Chinese girl before. Weinstein removed her second layer of tights. But when he asked her to remove her underwear, she refused.
“‘It’s exhausting, he tries to whittle you down little by little,’ Chiu said … He managed to get her on the bed—he was holding her down, she said, not forcefully, like it was a game … Before anything further happened, she rolled over, wriggled away, and dutifully continued on her shift, leaving the hotel room around 2:00 a.m., when the work was finally done.
“Later, Weinstein denied the whole story … Chiu and Perkins banded together and resigned. ‘I had to protect her,’ Perkins said. ‘She couldn’t have done anything on her own; it would have just been her word against his. I was her shield.’ … She and Chiu … found an attorney in London, from the firm Simons Muirhead & Burton, and assumed that the next stop would be criminal proceedings.
“The lawyers told the two women otherwise. They had no physical evidence. They had not called the police in Venice. They were two twentysomethings going up against Weinstein … they were told that their best course of action was a settlement … Perkins and Chiu protested that they did not want any money: It had to be donated to charity, which they hoped would create a public flag. That wasn’t how things worked, they were told … In the end, each woman would receive 125,000 pounds, but both had to agree to extraordinary restrictions.
“As Perkins and Jodi ate lunch and talked in London, written proof of those restrictions was sitting in Perkins’s bag. … the reporters had never actually laid eyes on any of the Weinstein settlement papers. In investigative journalism, knowing about incriminating documents was good; seeing them was excellent; and having copies was best …
“She began to read aloud. She was not permitted to speak to anybody about her time working at Miramax. Any ‘medical professional’ she consulted about what happened would need to sign a confidentiality agreement … She was not to speak to ‘any other media now or hereafter existing’ about what happened. (God bless Perkins, Jodi thought, sitting here with a reporter almost twenty years later.) …
“Though the settlement shaped Perkins’s life, she wasn’t even allowed to hold on to a complete copy of the paperwork … When she had asked her lawyer how she could possibly abide by an agreement she couldn’t consult, she had given her these excerpts … Afterward, Perkins felt ‘broken and disillusioned.’ … Her career in film was over, she realized …
“‘For me, the bigger trauma was what had happened with lawyers,’ … Jodi had phoned a top employment lawyer there for an assessment of how much a woman with a settlement would risk if she broke the agreement and spoke out. The attorney was unequivocal. “They’ll sue her, ask for the money back,” he said. In all of his years practicing law, he said, no client had ever breached a confidentiality agreement. “They’re paying for silence,” he finished. (Emphasis added.)
Still, if Kantor and Twohey could get other women to break their settlement agreements, Perkins would too … The next day Kantor was talking to Laura Madden, who, in 1992, “got hired to work on “Into the West,” a film starring Gabriel Byrne and Ellen Barkin, and “found herself dispatched to Weinstein’s hotel room in Dublin one day …
“‘He told me that I was guaranteed a permanent job in the Miramax London office, to start immediately … I was delighted, as this was literally my dream job.’ Weinstein, wearing a bathrobe, told Madden that he was worn out from travel and wanted a massage from her. She resisted. He pushed, telling her that everyone did it, that it wasn’t a romantic request, he just needed to relax …
“When he took off the bathrobe and Madden placed her hands on him, she froze. He suggested that he massage her first, to put her at ease. She took her top off, as he had instructed, then her bra, and he put his hands all over her, she recounted. She felt disgusted and scared she would lose the job in the London office.
We learn: “It was only months later, after the story had broken, that Madden shared the worst details of her account. Soon her pants were off too. Weinstein stood over her, naked and masturbating. ‘I was lying on the bed and felt terrified and compromised and out of my depth’ … She asked him to leave her alone … Weinstein suggested a shower and Madden was so numb she gave in. As the water poured around them, he continued masturbating and Madden cried so hard that the producer eventually seemed annoyed and backed off, she said. That was when she locked herself in the bathroom, still sobbing … Madden described how she hurried back into the room to recover her clothes and belongings and ran away. (Later, Weinstein denied her account in its entirety.) …
Kantor shares a devastatingly sad reality: “As she and Madden talked, Jodi did not mention the lunch with Perkins the day before … The conversations were confidential. Though the two women had worked alongside one another in the London office, they had never shared their painful stories with each other. Both women were isolated; no one could see the whole picture.”
We learn Madden “was speaking privately to Jodi because of a call she had gotten prior to any of their conversations, from an ex-assistant of Weinstein’s named Pamela Lubell, to whom she had not spoken in almost two decades. Lubell had effused about how lucky they had all been to work for Miramax, how kind Weinstein had been. Then she asked if Madden had gotten calls from any journalists — ‘cockroach journalists,’ she had said. Lubell had wanted assurances that Madden wouldn’t speak to them. Madden had refused to make any promises, so Lubell continued to call and push. ‘If you ever have a project you want to make, you can bring it to me; I can bring it to Harvey,’ she remembered Lubell saying. Madden was certain that Weinstein had put her old colleague up to the calls. She was direct with Lubell. Yes, Weinstein had harassed her. No, she could not provide any assurance that she wouldn’t speak. In fact, she was outraged by the attempt to silence her …”
One assault after another, year after year. And more about the cover-up and the counterattack. Back in New York, Megan, tracking down a 2001 complaint filed against Miramax with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, consulted California-based feminist attorney Gloria Allred, thinking she might have some advice about how best to find the information.
Cautious because of that earlier strange outreach from Allred’s daughter, Lisa Bloom, she never mentioned Weinstein’s name. Still, Allred had little advice to give. What Megan didn’t know was that Allred’s firm already had separate records about Weinstein. And that while Allred “cultivated a reputation for giving female victims a voice, some of her work and revenue was in negotiating secret settlements that silenced them and buried allegations of sexual harassment and assault.” She had negotiated a “breathtakingly restrictive” settlement with Bill O’Reilly and “a settlement that muzzled Olympic-medal-winning gymnast McKayla Moroney.”
Allred has argued that confidential agreements “were better for clients, many of whom wanted privacy and feared being shunned by employers; going to court was risky and could take years. ‘Nobody has forced anyone to sign an NDA,’ she told Megan. ‘Nobody is holding a gun to their head.’
Attorneys Allred, Lisa Bloom, Lanny Davis and David Boies: some of those who made money representing Weinstein against those he abused. Here’s an illuminating conversation with Weinstein attorney Lanny Davis:
Megan asked about Rose McGowan: “Was last year’s tweet the first time Weinstein had learned of any concerns that the actress had about an encounter with him?’ … ‘Concerns?’ he said. ‘Yes, there — he was aware that there were concerns, but not that she was accusing him of rape. So I’m making a bright line on the word rape. Anything below that line, he was aware of feeling, concerns …’ ‘And if the concerns were not about rape,’ Jodi asked, ‘then what were they about?’ …
“‘The only way I can answer, Jodi, based on what I now know, is a sense of being exploited because of that disparate power relationship. Taken advantage of, exploited, a wide range of verbs that post facto, or even in the middle of an incident, women are made to feel in an unequal position. There’s mental coercion that isn’t physical coercion,’ Davis said, adding that Lisa Bloom had been working with Weinstein to help him recognize the difference. ‘I know that he’s mentioned that Lisa has looked at this, looked at him, looked at his past conduct, and has helped him understand that.’ (Emphasis added.)
“‘If Weinstein had in fact been made aware of McGowan’s concerns at the time, how did he respond?’ ‘I believe he had dealings legally with her about them … I think he became aware that she did not regard what happened as okay with her … I’m not talking about rape; I’m talking about the effect that he had on Rose McGowan. She says that it was a severe effect. That rather than fighting … I think that he has agreed to settlements rather than litigating what he might have litigated’ … As Weinstein saw it, Davis explained, ‘It’s better to settle even if you haven’t done anything wrong.’ …
“‘Were there other cases of questionable intimate relations with women in which Weinstein settled?’ Megan asked … ‘let’s say for now, even on a background basis, that I need to find out what my limits are legally, even if on background I am confirming settlements. I need to just find out where I stand. But the answer is, yes, there have been, but I just need to find out how I can better define that for you.”
Before Davis left, Megan asked if Weinstein had tried to interfere with their reporting or go after the women who spoke to them, and Davis offered an unequivocal no.
But “She Said” reveals: “The producer had been ahead of the investigation from the start … He had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to identify people who might talk, to cover his tracks, and even to have obtained passages from McGowan’s memoir as she was drafting it. By the time of Davis’s meeting at the Times, he had been combatting Jodi and Megan’s work in ways that went far beyond labeling them ‘cockroach journalists.’ The astounding thing was how much help he had …”
In fact, David Boies, was engaged with him in a widespread effort to block Kantor and Twohey: “The producer had long relied on private detectives to protect his reputation … [The Israeli firm] Black Cube did far more than watch other people. It manipulated them as well, even using an actor who adopted a fake identity in order to dupe unsuspecting targets. Others were former military intelligence experts … Under the terms of a contract struck that October, Weinstein agreed to pay the professional manipulators $100,000 a month to shield his behavior from scrutiny …
Black Cube’s Seth Freedman pretended he worked for the British Guardian and collected information from Weinstein’s victims. A female Black Cube agent posed as a potential source and approached Benjamin Wallace of New York Magazine for a piece they later decided not to publish. This same agent, using the name Diana Filip, offered McGowan a speaking gig, then successfully befriended her, eventually hearing and reporting back about parts of McGowan’s unpublished memoir.
Then Black Cube moved to “completely stop the publication of a new negative article in a leading NY newspaper.” The agent Anna, a k a Diana Filip, the woman who had approached McGowan and Wallace, would be on the case full time … If Black Cube was able to stop publication of the article, it would earn a $300,000 bonus. Boies signed the new contract on July 11, weeks before Lanny Davis met with Jodi, Megan, and Corbett at the Times …
And in a triumph for irony, Gloria Allred and Lisa Bloom were then feted in W magazine:
And in a 2017 email to Kantor and Twohey, Bloom claimed that “representing Weinstein in 2017 was a ‘colossal mistake’ which she ‘deeply regretted … I was naïve to believe he had only used inappropriate language with women, and to think that I could get to the root of the problem in a different way, by encouraging him to apologize, which he did when the story broke … Clearly my approach did not go over at all and I should have known better. Should I have assumed that it could have been a lot worse than what I knew at the time? Yes. That’s on me.’”
But despite the accolades and the much-too-late regret, “She Said” offers a clear-eyed look into the dark reality of what is ground zero, revealing how Lisa Bloom chooses to debase herself in service of the abuser as she energetically, even enthusiastically, betrays a brave victim like Rose McGowan for lots of money.
Lisa Bloom: “Harvey, It was a treat to speak with you today … I’ve spent the rest of the day reading Jack and Sara’s thorough reports about Rose, who truly comes across as a disturbed pathological liar, and also your former assistant who seems to be less of a concern …
“I feel equipped to help you against the Roses of the world, because I have represented so many of them. They start out as impressive, bold women, but the more one presses for evidence, the weaknesses and lies are revealed. She doesn’t seem to have much going on these days except her rapidly escalating identity as a feminist warrior, which seems to be entirely based on her online rants … Clearly she must be stopped in her ridiculous, defamatory attacks on you. She is dangerous. You are right to be concerned.
“Options after my initial read, which I can flesh out on our next call: Initiating friendly contact with her through me or other good intermediary, and after establishing a relationship work out a ‘win-win.’ Key question: what does she want? To direct, it appears?
“Counterops online campaign to push back and call her out as a pathological liar … This can begin simultaneous with #1. Cease and desist letter from me, warning her of the violation of agreement with you and putting her on notice of causes of action for CA claims of false light, invasion of privacy, defamation etc. Risk: she posts the letter online, generating heat and backlash. (Sara: I need to see the agreement, please.)
“You and I come out publicly in a pre-emptive interview where you talk about evolving on women’s issues, prompted by death of your mother, Trump pussy grab tape, and maybe, nasty unfounded hurtful rumors about you. This will be headline grabbing if you express genuine contrition for anyone who you hurt, while emphasizing it was always adult consensual behavior. You thought that was enough at the time but now realize it’s more nuanced, that a power imbalance means something, etc. You reached out to me to help understand rapidly evolving social mores around sexual misconduct because you are a good and decent person (as evidenced by your life’s work making films on important social issues and extremely generous philanthropy … You should be the hero of the story, not the villain. This is very doable.
“Start the Weinstein Foundation, focusing on gender equality in film, etc. Or establish the Weinstein Standards, which seek to have one-third of films directed by women, or written by women … A reminder: would you please connect me with David Boies so that I can get retained? … Thanks and really honored to be brought into this team. Talk tomorrow? Best, Lisa Bloom.”
“She Said” continues on to detail how they prepared their first articles for the Times, conversations with Weinstein and the escalation of the Weinstein counterattack and then moves on to an in-depth and behind-the-scenes examination of Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations and the Kavanaugh investigation. I want to thank the authors for their concern for and commitment to the women they asked to speak out. I urge you to read about the extraordinary get together they organized Jan. 16, 2019, inviting a diverse collection of women to share their experiences with President Trump, Harvey Weinstein, Justice Kavanaugh and McDonalds.
It’s so obvious how all of this reverberates. Like the House of Mirrors, it’s hard not to see so many other powerful and abusive men reflected back at us — cruelty, deceit, arrogance multiplied many times.
And even more important: What also reverberates is the power unleashed when the victimized choose to end their silence, to speak up, to speak out.
We all need to read “She Said.”
“Bob Woodward interviewed the ‘She Said’ authors at a book event. Things got tense. Then there was heckling.”
Lisa Bonos, Emily Yahr, Oct. 3, 2019, Washington Post