Investigation into film exec after sex allegations

Harvey Weinstein (65) will take an indefinite leave of absence, the company said. Photo: Reuters
Harvey Weinstein (65) will take an indefinite leave of absence, the company said. Photo: Reuters

Co-chairman Harvey Weinstein was taking an indefinite leave from the Weinstein Co, the film production company said on Friday (local time), adding it will conduct an internal investigation into the New York Times' report of sexual harassment allegations against one of the most powerful men in Hollywood.

The Weinstein Company board of representatives said in a statement that it takes "extremely seriously" the accusations made in the Times story that said Weinstein had made eight settlements with women who had accused him of unwanted physical contact and sexual harassment over three decades.

Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and several Democratic politicians including Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Chuck Schumer said Friday they will re-route Weinstein's political donations to women's rights groups.

Weinstein Co board representatives called it "essential" to company culture "that all women who work for it or have any dealings with it or any of our executives are treated with respect and have no experience of harassment or discrimination."

The company said it has retained an outside legal firm to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations.

Weinstein, 65, will take an indefinite leave of absence, the company said. His brother Bob, a co-chairman, and chief operating officer David Glasser will lead the company.

"As Harvey has said, it is important for him to get professional help for the problems he has acknowledged. Next steps will depend on Harvey’s therapeutic progress, the outcome of the Board’s independent investigation, and Harvey’s own personal decisions," the board representatives added.

Weinstein initially responded to the Times story on Thursday by apologizing for causing anyone pain, and saying he was taking a leave of absence.

His lawyer later threatened to sue the New York Times.

Weinstein, one of Hollywood's best-known figures, has produced or distributed Oscar-winning movies including "Shakespeare in Love" and "Chicago." He was a prominent donor to Democrats during the 2016 general election campaign.

"The DNC will donate over $US30,000 in contributions from Weinstein to EMILY's List, Emerge America and Higher Heights because what we need is more women in power," DNC communications director Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement. 

The women included an actress, a model and two assistants and the allegations spanned almost 30 years, the newspaper reported.

One of the women interviewed by the New York Times was "Double Jeopardy" actress and singer Ashley Judd.

The report cited Judd as saying that two decades ago she had a meeting with Weinstein in his Beverly Hills hotel room where he asked if he could give her a massage or if she could watch him shower.

Weinstein and his brother Bob formed independent movie studio Miramax in 1979. They later sold it and in 2005 set up The Weinstein Company.

Weinstein, who is married to Marchesa label fashion designer Georgina Chapman, is the latest U.S. media titan to be accused of sexual harassment.

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