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11 February 2015

Who knew

By Antonia Quirke

A two-part edition of the New York Times’s daily podcast sees Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey expand on their 2017 Pulitzer-winning investigation into Harvey Weinstein. They talk about two attorneys involved in the case – famous “defenders of women” Gloria Allred and her daughter Lisa Bloom.

Episode one takes down Bloom. Weinstein had optioned a book of hers for a mini-series: she worked for him until it became clear in 2017 the association was too poisonous. “He wanted a powerful woman on his side,” explains Kantor, “with a very public reputation for protecting victims.” We hear Bloom’s memos to him: “She must be stopped,” goes one from December 2016, in reference to actress Rose McGowan, who later alleged he raped her. Promising to destroy McGowan with “well-placed articles”, Bloom assures Weinstein he will be “the hero of the story”. She suggests he start “the Weinstein foundation” for (don’t laugh) “gender equality in film”.

Episode two focuses on Bloom’s mother Gloria, who represents some of the women taking Weinstein to court. Her firm represented a young victim of his years ago, advising her to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), take the money, and shut up. The firm pocketed 40 per cent of this settlement. So Allred, famed for standing alongside his victims, profited from Weinstein and kept quiet. She was one of those who knew.

Technically speaking, so am I. In the 1990s an acquaintance of mine – one of the many women to have accused him of assault – was paid off by Weinstein after signing an NDA. I heard a voicemail of Weinstein begging her to call him, saying he just wanted to talk to her “in a sweet way”. (It’s 20 years since I heard the tape, but that’s the phrase in my memory.) “That’s Harvey Weinstein,” I thought, “and he’s not even hiding that he’s done something really bad.” I, a lowly film reviewer, knew, so I’ve long assumed everyone else did too. Not that I care much for “you knew and did nothing” as an angle of attack. Knowing and doing nothing is human; to go on about it is just another kind of victim blaming. What makes these episodes compelling is the lack of sanctimony. There’s not a whiff of it, and no air of drama. Just a perfect seriousness. 

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