explainer

Matt Damon and Russell Crowe allegedly helped hide the accusations against Harvey Weinstein.

When the New York Times published an exposé last week detailing Hollywood producer and studio executive Harvey Weinstein’s decades of alleged sexual misconduct, one question murmured softly in the background: why now?

It was over twenty years ago that Weinstein invited actress Ashley Judd to his hotel room and asked her to watch him shower.

In 1997, Weinstein reached a $100,000 settlement with Charmed actress Rose McGowan over an incident in a hotel room during the Sundance Film Festival, although details of this incident remain undisclosed.

And it was as far back as 1991 when former employee Laura Madden was approached by Weinstein for ‘massages’. In 1998, a 25-year-old assistant Zelda Perkins confronted Weinstein about his treatment of women in the office, and threatened to go public or initiate legal action if he didn’t stop.

Harvey Weinstein with young celebrities, including Lorde and Taylor Swift, at a party. Image via Getty.

So, why now?

Why have decades of allegations against Harvey Weinstein been able to accumulate and then seemingly disappear?

In response to this question, many turn to the women who didn't speak up, or who didn't do 'enough' to pursue charges against the man who sexually harassed them. But new reports suggest there were men around Weinstein, who allegedly actively intervened to dispel reports of the producer's misconduct at a moment they could have been made public.

In 2004, after extensive investigation, journalist Sharon Waxman claims she wrote an article for The New York Times detailing Weinstein's sexual misconduct. It was cut from the paper, she says, due to pressure from several big Hollywood names. In an article for The Wrap published on Sunday (Los Angeles time), Waxman alleges that Matt Damon and Russell Crowe called her “directly” to refute reports that Miramax’s Italian head Fabrizio Lombardo was hired “to take care of Weinstein’s women needs".

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Waxman alleges it was both the influence of Matt Damon and Russell Crowe, and involvement from Weinstein (whose company advertised in The New York Times) that led to the misconduct details being removed.

Ben Affleck, Harvey Weinstein and Matt Damon. Image via Getty.

Weinstein had previously worked with Matt Damon in films like Good Will Hunting and The Talented Mr. Ripley, and with Russell Crowe in Cinderella Man and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

The New York Times has responded to Waxman's claims, denying her story was spiked for the reasons she listed. Instead, says Executive Editor Dean Baquet in a statement to Vulture, the salacious details were likely removed because they relied on "an off-the-record account from one woman".

"The story we published last week took months of work by two experienced investigative reporters," he wrote. "It included the on-the-record accounts of numerous women who were harassed by Mr. Weinstein. It also included the fact that Mr. Weinstein paid settlements to keep women from talking. I’m sure Ms. Waxman believes she had a story. But if you read her own description, she did not have anything near what was revealed in our story."

Nonetheless, representatives for Damon and Crowe are yet to respond to allegations they directly contacted Waxman when she was chasing leads against Weinstein.

Interstellar actress Jessica Chastain described the allegations as "heart shattering," and wrote, "I'm sick of the media demanding only women speak up. What about the men? Perhaps many are afraid to look at their own behavior....."

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Rose McGowan shared a list of those on the Weinstein Company Board, calling for them to resign. "Hey Matt Damon, what's it like to be a spineless profiteer who stays silent?" she wrote below.

She then tweeted a Vulture story with the headline: 'Matt Damon, Russell Crowe Reportedly Helped Kill a 2004 New York Times Harvey Weinstein Article' and wrote, "Have u seen this article? Do u realise how deep the cover ups go? Then u wonder why its taken so long (sic)".

It seems the answer to the question 'why now?' may have far less to do with how women speak up, and far more to do with the men who shut them down when they do - or stay silent.

For decades of allegations to accumulate, without being made public, there must have been people around Harvey Weinstein who protected him. That's why we're only learning the truth now. And why ultimately, some women choose not to say anything at all.

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