As the fallout from the long-suppressed story of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged predatory sexual abuse continues, the Obamas have spoken out.
In a statement released late Tuesday, former President Barack Obama also spoke on behalf of his wife, Michelle. Weinstein had not only donated millions of dollars to the Democratic Party but had also hosted fundraisers that the Obamas attended. But the allegations hit particularly close to home for the Obamas because Malia had just wrapped up a coveted internship with the mogul’s production company a few months ago.
From CBS News:
Michelle and I have been disgusted by the recent reports about Harvey Weinstein. Any man who demeans and degrades women in such fashion needs to be held accountable, regardless of wealth or status. We should celebrate the courage of women who come forward to tell these painful stories. And we all need to build a culture — including by empowering our girls and teaching our boys decency and respect — so we can make such behavior less prevalent in the future.
Malia landed her internship with the Weinstein Co. earlier this year, working with the production and development department. Many have speculated about what the 19-year-old may have known about the Hollywood producer’s alleged predatory behavior.
On Tuesday, actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie joined the growing list of women who claim that Weinstein harassed or abused them.
One of the stronger condemnations of Hollywood’s treatment of women came from Black Panther director Ryan Coogler. The director’s debut, Fruitvale Station, about the death of Oscar Grant at the hands of a Bay Area Rapid Transit officer in 2009, was released by the Weinstein Co.
Shadow and Act released Coogler’s statement in full. The acclaimed filmmaker said he was “disturbed and saddened” by the news, adding that he was unaware of Weinstein’s behavior but felt a responsibility to speak on the issue because of his connection to the producer.
But Coogler didn’t stop there:
I love working as a storyteller. But I work in an industry that too many times has proven to not be a safe space for women. I make it a priority to ensure that there is gender equity and an inclusive work environment on every project I am involved with. However, just minding our business sometimes isn’t enough. It goes without saying, but I will state it now: sexual harassment is a human rights violation, sexual assault is a human rights violation, rape is a human rights violation.
The entertainment industry, like many others, has a historic imbalance of power among gender that allows these violations to run rampant. As men we sit in positions of privilege. It is our responsibility to leverage our position, and be allies to the women in our industry. We need to do everything we can to make sure violations like these don’t continue to happen. The first step is to listen. Salute to the brave women who came forward. I could never imagine how difficult that must be.
To his credit, Coogler has been walking the talk on gender inclusivity in Hollywood, unlike some of the actors and directors who have given lukewarm expressions of shock at the Weinstein allegations.
The scandal, long regarded as an “open secret” in Hollywood, according to some reports, has forced the entertainment industry to confront the ways it enables and reinforces systems of abuse and exploitation. The Weinstein story in particular has prompted many big names to come out about harassment they’ve suffered. On Tuesday, former NFL player and comedic actor Terry Crews opened up about being groped at a party.
“Hollywood is not the only business [where] this happens,” Crews warned. “And to the casualties of this behavior—you are not alone.”
Read more at CBS News.