LOS ANGELES — Harvey Weinstein, the larger-than-life Hollywood executive and Oscar-winner, is taking a leave of absence from his own company after an explosive expose revealing decades of sexual harassment against women, from employees to actress Ashley Judd, was published in The New York Times Thursday.
The article includes first person accounts of Weinstein's alleged conduct, including from Judd, who recounts an incident from two decades ago in which she said she was asked to meet Weinstein in his hotel room. Weinstein greeted her wearing a bathrobe and asked if he could give her a massage or if she would watch him shower, the paper reported.
"Women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time, and it's simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly," Judd told the Times.
Two unnamed company officials tell the Times that at least eight women have received settlements from Weinstein over the years, including actress Rose McGowan, who allegedly had an incident with him in 1997 when she was 23.
Other stories include similar accounts of Weinstein coercing young women into giving him massages, while naked, or watching him shower, and promising career advancement in return. These incidents were all said to have happened in hotel rooms.
Weinstein's attorney Charles J. Harder said in a statement that the story is "saturated with false and defamatory statements about Harvey Weinstein."
"We sent the Times the facts and evidence, but they ignored it and rushed to publish," Harder said. He did not respond to questions about what specific allegations Weinstein was contesting.
Harder represented Hulk Hogan in his successful defamation suit against the now-defunct website Gawker.
"We are confident in the accuracy of our reporting," said a New York Times spokesperson in a statement. "Mr. Weinstein was aware and able to respond to specific allegations in our story before publication. In fact, we published his response in full."
Weinstein also gave an interview to The New York Post on Thursday afternoon echoing Harder's statements and calling the Times' reporting "reckless." He accused the paper of having a "vendetta" against him.
Weinstein did not specify which allegations he thought false.
Requests for comment from The Weinstein Co. and Judd were not immediately returned.
Weinstein, 65, had a powerful perch in Hollywood for three decades, and was known for producing films like "Pulp Fiction" and "Shakespeare in Love," for which he won an Oscar. He has also launched the careers of numerous actresses and directors and executed extremely successful Oscar campaigns with his company Miramax, which he ran with his brother Bob Weinstein. He is also an executive producer of the hit reality series "Project Runway."
In 2005, the Weinstein brothers launched a new production company, The Weinstein Co. Known for his angry outbursts, his often aggressive tactics were chronicled in the Peter Biskind book "Down and Dirty Pictures."
He also executive produced five best picture winners, including "The English Patient," ''Chicago," ''The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," ''The King's Speech," and "The Artist," and garnered many nominations for his films and actors.
"I appreciate the way I've behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it," Weinstein said in a statement. "Though I'm trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go."
His statement did not address any specific incidents.