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Harvey Weinstein’s new defense strategy: Blame the media for its accurate reporting

Weinstein's legal team blame the pressure 'snowballing coverage' for their client's legal predicament, glossing over the fact that the mogul manipulated the press for years.

Harvey Weinstein walks away from the court room with his lawyer Benjamin Brafman at the New York State Supreme Court on October 11, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
Harvey Weinstein walks away from the court room with his lawyer Benjamin Brafman at the New York State Supreme Court on October 11, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Why did it take so long for the allegations against Harvey Weinstein to graduate from gossip to front-page news?

One reason, as reams of reporting from the New York Times and the New Yorker have revealed, is that Weinstein went to harrowing lengths to keep word of his alleged violence out of the press. Weinstein went so far as to employ private investigators from corporate-intelligence outfit Black Cube with the specific directive of suppressing the publication of stories about his alleged abuse. As Ronan Farrow wrote in the New Yorker:

Over the course of a year, Weinstein had the agencies “target,” or collect information on, dozens of individuals, and compile psychological profiles that sometimes focussed on their personal or sexual histories. Weinstein monitored the progress of the investigations personally. He also enlisted former employees from his film enterprises to join in the effort, collecting names and placing calls that, according to some sources who received them, felt intimidating.

In addition to his deployment of an “army of spies,” Weinstein was notorious for allegedly bullying and even assaulting reporters who crossed him. In one especially chilling incident, as detailed by Rebecca Traister, Weinstein spewed a stream of misogynistic vitriol at Traister in response to a question he didn’t like; when Andrew Goldman, a male colleague of Traister’s, intervened, “Weinstein went nuclear, pushing Andrew down a set of steps inside the Tribeca Grand — knocking him over with such force that his tape recorder hit a woman, who suffered long-term injury — and dragging Andrew, in a headlock, onto Sixth Avenue.”

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“Back then, [in 2000], Harvey could spin — or suppress — anything,” wrote Traister, “there were so many journalists on his payroll, working as consultants on movie projects, or as screenwriters, or for his magazine.” So it is a particularly rich move by Weinstein’s attorney, Ben Brafman, to say his client has been the victim of “a vicious media assault.” But Thursday, that’s what Brafman did in his latest effort to get the case against Weinstein dismissed.

“Harvey Weinstein, a man vilified by a vicious media assault caused a case that was never critically examined or investigated,” Brafman writes in this new filing. “The falsity of the serious allegations being made as more fully discussed below were forced on the District Attorney by, a collective media that unfortunately placed unprecedented pressure on the District Attorney’s Office and the Police Department to prosecute Mr. Weinstein.”

This filing also details some of the failures by the District Attorney’s office and the NYPD, which have been reported on before and, in October, resulted in one of the six charges against Weinstein being thrown out. (A lead detective had failed to disclose information about a witness who said Lucia Evans, the accuser in question, described the encounter as a consensual exchange of a sex act for an “acting job.”)

In Brafman’s telling, the D.A. was “pressured to indict” Weinstein in May after the New York Times ran a front page story about how Weinstein’s arrest could define Manhattan district attorney Cy Vance’s legacy. “The article went so far as to hypothesize Mr. Vance would be forced to resign; that his legacy would be permanently tarnished and his reputation destroyed, if he did not bow to the increasing media and police demands to arrest and successfully prosecute Mr. Weinstein.”

Calling the Times story “outrageous,” Brafman argues that “although the preliminary decision to arrest Mr. Weinstein may have already been made,” the Times piece “unfairly pressured the District Attorney’s Office.” (That it is in fact the job of the media to do exactly this — to hold elected officials accountable through rigorous reporting — is not addressed by Brafman.)

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“Unfortunately,” Brafman writes. “The terrible media onslaught we have endured forced the filing of this deeply flawed case.”

Weinstein still faces five charges stemming from assaults of two other women, in 2006 and 2013. These charges include two counts of predatory sexual assault, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.