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Journalist: Harvey Weinstein’s Defense Team Is Waging a War Against the #MeToo Movement

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A jury of seven men and five women meet today in New York Supreme Court to begin deliberations on whether to find disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein guilty of sexual assault. The case has drawn international attention amid the #MeToo movement. If the jurors find Weinstein guilty, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. Weinstein has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 100 women but in this case faces five charges based on evidence relating to two main accusers. One woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, alleges she was raped by Weinstein in a New York hotel, for which he has been charged with rape in the first and third degrees. The second main accuser is former “Project Runway” production assistant Miriam Haley, who alleges Weinstein forced oral sex on her in 2006. For this, Weinstein faces a count of criminal sex act. If the jury finds Weinstein guilty of the charges relating to either or both of the main accusers, then it can consider two counts of predatory sexual assault against him. We speak with Irin Carmon, a senior correspondent for New York magazine who has followed the allegations against Harvey Weinstein. She spoke with 21 of his accusers in her article “100 Women vs. Harvey Weinstein” and wrote about a 57-page PowerPoint Harvey Weinstein’s team sent to reporters that smeared his alleged victims. Her new piece is headlined “The Woman Who Taped Harvey Weinstein.”

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

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we turn right now back to the case of Harvey Weinstein in a New York courtroom today with jury deliberations. The disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haley and raping Jessica Mann, one-time aspiring actress, in 2013. This is one of Weinstein’s lawyers, Donna Rotunno.

DONNA ROTUNNO: Well, I think the issue is, if you look at all the evidence, the evidence shows consensual relationships. So, if you claim that what you say happened happened, it belies common sense that you would then go out and send the emails, have the contact, continue relationship, send your phone numbers? So, that’s the reason that is consent. The evidence shows consent.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we are continuing with Irin Carmon, senior correspondent for New York magazine, who has been writing about the Harvey Weinstein case for some time, had an amazing cover story where women, dressed in black, linked arms, the article called “100 Women vs. Harvey Weinstein.” She also wrote about the 57-page PowerPoint Harvey Weinstein’s team sent to reporters that smeared his alleged victims. She’s the author of The New York Times best-seller Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

So, let’s talk about this case and how you think it’s gone, as the jury begins to deliberate today.

IRIN CARMON: It’s so interesting, because we, from the beginning of #MeToo going viral, have considered Harvey Weinstein to be this kind of untouchable monster by which all other accusations are measured. But the truth is, it’s really complicated to bring a criminal case, especially years after many of these allegations were said to take place. So, if you could imagine a big funnel, where there are a hundred and possibly more women out there, but then how many of them have chargeable cases just from the point of view of statutes of limitations? Have many of them have evidence? How many of them are willing to talk to prosecutors? Because participating in a criminal case like this is wrenching. And, in fact, they brought cases — they brought a case on behalf of, in New York, Lucia Evans, that was later dropped, even though she also cooperated with Cy Vance’s office. So you don’t even know if your case will see the light of day. From that, we have two women, Jessica Mann and Mimi Haley, whose charges form the basis of the New York case, and there’s also going to be a Los Angeles case.

And one of the reasons that there is a lot of complexity is because the jury is being asked to understand something that experts will tell you is typical, but that society doesn’t generally understand, which is: How can it be that on one day somebody, you say, sexually assaults you, but then, further down the line, you continue to have consensual contact with them, whether it’s friendly conversation in the form of an email or asking them for a professional opportunity? Now, the prosecutors have tried to square this circle, which, again, experts say, is incredibly typical. You could think of it as being kind of akin to a domestic violence situation. But will the jury understand it? This is how the prosecutors have tried to explain it, that this is a man who held so much economic power in the industry, a man who they saw as holding the keys to their future, and also that they were terrified of him. They were terrified of his rage and the violence, and they wanted to tell a story to themselves that this was consensual.

The defense has actually seen this case as not just a war about the facts, not just does Harvey Weinstein deserve due process; they are waging a war against the entire #MeToo movement. Donna Rotunno and the rest of the team are coming out and saying, “Actually, it’s not — Harvey Weinstein is a victim of these women and a target of a cause and a movement.” So, they have tried to make this as much about the backlash to that movement as possible.

AMY GOODMAN: And how do you think the prosecutors have done in this case?

IRIN CARMON: You know, it’s a tough case, because it would not have been brought had there not been such raised awareness about the complex dynamics around sexual assault. I do not know whether there are members of a jury willing to unanimously convict based on facts, that, again, experts will tell you, are completely typical of people who experience trauma, but are relatively new ideas for society at large to accept.

They’ve also pursued a strategy that I think is risky, which is that they have focused on Harvey Weinstein’s body. They distributed photos of him to the jury, naked, which were then drawn by court artists. And they have asked several of the women who have testified, because in addition to the two women who testified whose case formed the basis of the charges, there have also been other women, like Annabella Sciorra and other individuals, who say they were assaulted by Harvey but whose cases can’t be criminally charged in this context. And a couple of them have spoken about how disgusting they found Harvey Weinstein’s body, specific details about his genitalia. And listening to this, you do wonder whether this focus, because nobody denies that sexual contact took place, might risk playing into the defense’s argument that he’s a victim, or might look like the prosecutors are trying to humiliate him. And I do wonder whether the jury will listen to that and actually kind of feel bad for Harvey, who has been coming into the courtroom every day with a walker, right? They’ve been spinning the story that he’s just a loser who beautiful women exploited. So, will that work for the prosecutors? I think we’re about to find out.

AMY GOODMAN: And very quickly, with the presidential race, Michael Bloomberg coming under major scrutiny around his comments about women, and scores of lawsuits against him and his company related to women and sexual harassment. Let me ask you about specifically a case that you have looked particularly at, and that’s the story of Charlie Rose, who worked out of Bloomberg’s big building in New York City — that’s where his studios were — was a very close friend of Bloomberg, and what Bloomberg’s comments have been about him.

IRIN CARMON: So, Bloomberg has said that they had no idea about any allegations. There’s no records. We investigated, as well. They told us there were no records. But he has also repeatedly said that there are two sides to every story, and he’s not sure if he believes it. Over the years, they’ve been reported to be very close friends. There was a piece in The Washington Post in the '90s where they talked about how, I think, Charlie said, you know, “There's a lot of locker room talk. We’re both bachelors together.” Definitely a warm relationship, that he then came out and defended Charlie Rose. There is litigation ongoing in the Charlie Rose case. Both his former makeup artist and three of his former assistants are continuing to sue him, and he’s been deposed in that case. Michael Bloomberg said at the time that he — that nothing had been proven in a court of law, but as we saw from our Weinstein conversation, you know, the role of journalism and the role of the criminal system are slightly different, and not everything fits into a criminal case.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Irin Carmon, thank you so much for your excellent reporting, senior correspondent for New York magazine who’s followed the allegations against Harvey Weinstein. We will link to her piece today that has just come out and the previous piece, where she looked at a number of the hundred women who have accusations against Harvey Weinstein.

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