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NBC Reportedly Axed the Harvey Weinstein Story as Hollywood Made Rape Survivors the Butt of Jokes

StoryOctober 12, 2017
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As part of a roundtable discussion on the rape and sexual assault allegations against disgraced and now-fired movie producer Harvey Weinstein, we speak with journalist Irin Carmon, who wrote an essay titled “Women shouldn’t trust the men who call themselves allies.” We are also joined by two women who are survivors of assaults by Weinstein: Tomi-Ann Roberts, professor of psychology at Colorado College, and Louise Godbold, executive director of Echo Parenting & Education.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report, as we continue to talk about Harvey Weinstein, who has just been fired by his board, as dozens of women come forward. We continue to look at the fallout from the shocking investigations by The New Yorker and The New York Times which revealed the slew of rape and sexual assault allegations against disgraced and now-fired movie producer Harvey Weinstein, one of the most powerful men in Hollywood for decades. Weinstein also a major contributor to the Democratic Party. This is a clip from the NBC show 30 Rock in 2012, when the character Jenna, Jane Krakowski, says that she isn’t afraid of anyone in show business, and says she has “turned down intercourse with Harvey Weinstein on no less than three occasions.”

JENNA MARONEY: [played by Jane Krakowksi] How long will it take to get a cease and desist order against “Weird Al” Yankovic? Oh, that’s too bad. Did they also take away your handgun license?

TRACY JORDAN: [played by Tracy Morgan] Don’t do it, J-Mo. You don’t want to mess with “Weird Al.”

JENNA MARONEY: Oh, please. I’m not afraid of anyone in show business. I turned down intercourse with Harvey Weinstein on no less than three occasions—out of five.

AMY GOODMAN: And this is a clip of Seth MacFarlane announcing the 2013 Oscar nominations, when MacFarlane joked about what Harvey Weinstein—about Harvey Weinstein’s behavior.

SETH MacFARLANE: The 2012 nominees for best performance by an actress in a supporting role are Sally Field in Lincoln, Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables, Jacki Weaver in Silver Linings Playbook, Helen Hunt in The Sessions and Amy Adams in The Master. Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.

AMY GOODMAN: That was in 2013. Seth MacFarlane has since responded to the resurfacing of his comment. On Wednesday, he tweeted, quote, “In 2011, my friend and colleague Jessica Barth, with whom I worked on the Ted films, confided in me regarding her encounter with Harvey Weinstein and his attempted advances. She has since courageously come forward to speak out. It was with this account in mind that, when I hosted the Oscars in 2013, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a hard swing in his direction. Make no mistake, this came from a place of loathing and anger. There is nothing more abhorrent and indefensible than abuse of power such as this. I respect and applaud my friend Jessica and those sharing their stories for their decision to come forward, and for being champions of the truth.”

MacFarlane’s response drew criticism online. Journalist Andrea Grimes wrote, quote, “MacFarlane’s other material—in which the Family Guy creator sexualized a Black child, mocked actresses for appearing nude onscreen, and turned singer Chris Brown’s history of committing domestic violence into a punch line—was widely considered to be more offensive than what appeared then to be a comparatively tame rib about powerful men and aspiring actresses.... It was lost, back then, in a swirl of worse jokes. Only in retrospect does MacFarlane’s banal cruelty become apparent....But that’s the joke, I guess…” Andrea Grimes wrote.

Well, this is complicated, and we’re going to take it apart right now with our guests. We’re joined by Tomi-Ann Roberts, who described her story at the beginning of this hour, professor of psychology in Colorado College, who says she was harassed by Harvey Weinstein in 1984 when she was an aspiring actress, and that ended her aspirations. In Los Angeles, Louise Godbold is with us, wrote about her experience with Weinstein in a blog, “My Encounter with Harvey Weinstein and What It Tells Us About Trauma,” who is now executive director of Echo Parenting & Education. Here in New York, Irin Carmon is the contributing writer and Washington Post writer. Her piece, “Women shouldn’t trust the men who call themselves allies.”

So, your response to 30 Rock? I mean, a billion people is the Oscars, or more, watching.

IRIN CARMON: It infuriates me, specifically the Seth MacFarlane joke, because I think there’s a point at which—we should think about rape jokes as such, as follows: Do they punch down? Is the rape victim or potential rape victim the butt of the joke? And I think that yucking it up about how funny it is that women have to pretend to be attracted to a man who is serially abusing them, something that he actually knew at the time—

AMY GOODMAN: And said he was enraged by.


AMY GOODMAN: He said he was actually expressing his loathing.

IRIN CARMON: That doesn’t sound like an expression of rage to me. It sounds like, “Ha ha ha, this is just the way things are. Girls have to pretend to like these monsters.” It sounds like it’s a joke at their expense, to me.

TOMI-ANN ROBERTS: Absolutely. It’s the oldest joke in the world. Boys will be boys.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor of psychology, Colorado College, Tomi-Ann Roberts, respond.

TOMI-ANN ROBERTS: I’m feeling the same way. It’s the oldest joke in the world, as I said. It reinstates the sexist power differential. It’s not just Harvey Weinstein, 10; me, zero. It’s, you know, men at the Oscars, 10; all women at the Oscars, zero, once you tell a joke like that. It’s a joke about men being men. It’s a joke about we all—what we all have to assume to be the case, which is that these women had to use their sexualized bodies to get these parts, and now maybe they don’t have to anymore. Give me a break.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Tomi-Ann Roberts, I want to ask you about another fact that’s emerged with these revelations, namely that—and a very disturbing one, is that Weinstein systematically used women who worked with him, or for him, to facilitate a number of these liaisons with aspiring and vulnerable actresses who hoped to get work from him. So, could you talk about that, the fact that he made or—yeah, I guess, made his female employees do this work for him? And then, the second thing, which a number of people have pointed out, that his sexual abuse was by no means the only kind of abuse he dispensed. He was known for flying into fits of rage and systematically demeaning his employees, both male and female.


NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, talk about those different forms of abuse, how often they go together, and also his use of his female employees for this purpose, who, presumably, the young actresses would trust more.

TOMI-ANN ROBERTS: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. I think there are a lot of things going on here, not the least of which is that this is a man who truly objectifies humans. And by objectification, I’m using Martha Nussbaum, the famous philosopher from the University of Chicago’s definition. To objectify is to use a human being as a tool, as a means to an end. To sexually objectify is to use a person’s sexualized body as the tool that’s the means to your end. It seems to me as though what we’re talking about with a lot of these women who had to be part of this whole situation, it’s Stockholm syndrome, right? You get close to the power, so that you aren’t going to be the victim of the power. This is—the systemic quality of this—right?—is so—it’s astonishing. It takes a lot of people to carry out three decades of this kind of objectification of human beings. And so you’re going to have to—you’re going to have to organize. You’re going to have to get the troops around you. The best thing you could do is to have other young women working in the service of this thing. And you convince those other young women, in small and sometimes probably great ways, that if they do this for you, he’s not going to do something bad to you.

AMY GOODMAN: What kind of response, Professor Tomi-Ann Roberts, have you gotten since you’ve come out?

TOMI-ANN ROBERTS: I feel so sorrowful to hear the other interviewees’ response of, you know, feeling retraumatized. I will tell you that I have had—you know, my cellphone hasn’t stopped ringing. I haven’t gotten a lot of sleep. My email has blown up with people who are interested in hearing this story. I ended up putting an out-of-office reply on my email that said, “I don’t want to recount the salacious details of this story anymore. You can read them in The New York Times. If you want to talk to me about the larger issues, if you want to talk to me about this way of treating girls and women ends now, then I am happy.”

The retraumatization is so interesting. I really hadn’t thought of it. But I think it’s the case. My poor mother, who is quite elderly, had to receive a phone call as corroboration: Did she remember me telling her this story in 1984? And that wasn’t easy for her. And I think, for the most part, I want to say that I have received a lot of support and a lot of cheering. I’m a feminist. I’m part of feminist communities. Feminists have surrounded me and said, “Way to go.”

AMY GOODMAN: Irin Carmon, finally, hearing that NBC spiked the story, The New York Times had started a story 10 years ago, but that story did not go forward, what people can learn now and how you think this needs to be dealt with? And I want to end with the response of Louise Godbold in L.A. on how people have responded to you. We have just less than a minute.

IRIN CARMON: I think we have to look at how we normalize this kind of behavior, how these kinds of abuses of power and acceptance of the kind of power dynamic that we’ve been talking about has become so normal that we don’t even see abusive behavior hiding in plain sight. The stories of Harvey Weinstein were all about how he was such a character, he was like an old studio Hollywood head. People did not know the extent of this, but they also didn’t know because he continued to make them money, and they would prefer not to find anything out.—

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think he will go to jail, Harvey Weinstein?

IRIN CARMON: No. If I had to put money on it—

AMY GOODMAN: The New Yorker piece started with three women claim rape.

IRIN CARMON: I think that there—it seems to be evidence of a crime, but based on past experience and having been covering this for years and years, I would be very shocked if he saw the inside of a jail cell.

AMY GOODMAN: Louise Godbold, you have the last 10 seconds.

LOUISE GODBOLD: I am so glad that I haven’t been asked by and pressured by you to recount lurid details. I am not a victim. I am a survivor. And by telling my story, it has empowered me. And I encourage other women to take the situation and turn it around and let it empower them, so they can experience post-traumatic growth.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you all for being with us, Louise Godbold, Tomi-Ann Roberts, as well as Irin Carmon.

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