The Harvey Weinstein cover-up: How censorship, settlements and silence kept the allegations out of the news

The Takeaway
Harvey Weinstein

For a decade, journalist Paula Froelich was the deputy editor of the New York Post’s celebrity and gossip section, Page Six. Like many others who have traveled in Hollywood circles, she has a story about the now-infamous media mogul, Harvey Weinstein.

Her story begins in the year 2000, when Froelich attended a party — a party where Weinstein was also a guest.

“All of New York media was there,” she says. “All of a sudden, there was a skirmish breaking out. I was around it when it happened. [Journalist] Rebecca Traister had asked Harvey something about his anger issues, because they had been bubbling up as of late. He called her a very bad word that started with a ‘c.’”

According to Froelich, Weinstein physically assaulted Traister’s then-boyfriend, the journalist Andrew Goldman, after he confronted the Hollywood executive.   

“He threw Andrew across the room into a table, and then got him into a headlock, jammed him out the front doors onto the streets,” Froelich says. She adds that Weinstein was screaming profanity that cannot be printed here. Froelich called Weinstein’s publicist the next day to discuss what happened. 

“He basically said, ‘You know, you don’t need to do this piece,’” she says, adding that the public relations representative, Matthew Hiltzik, said he had spoken with other reporters who promised they would not cover the incident. 

Instead of complying with the request, Froelich decided to pursue the story.

“I started getting calls from a Fox News reporter begging me not to do the story, [and] my boss started going, ‘I don’t know if we should do this story,’” she says. “I looked at him and said, ‘If we don’t do this story, I quit.’” 

She wrote up her account of the skirmish, but when it was published, she said it looked “nothing like” the version she had penned. 

As more and more women detail allegations of sexual harassment against Weinstein — including megastars like Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie — another story is beginning to unfold. 

According to Froelich, self-censorship of the press helped keep these accusations buried from the public for decades. And it’s not just her. On Tuesday, journalist Ronan Farrow told Rachel Maddow that he faced a great deal of pushback from multiple news outlets when he attempted to publish his explosive story on Weinstein, which was released by The New Yorker this week.

“People don't want to report on the table; they want a seat at it," Froelich says of media censorship.

Though she says she ultimately turned down a film and TV deal with Weinstein, Froelich does say that his company, Miramax, published a book she wrote in 2003. But connections between journalists and Weinstein run deep and may have contributed to the self-censorship. 

“There were a lot of people in the industry who had book deals — there was a reporter who had a documentary with Harvey,” she says. “Everyone had some sort of consulting deal — he would just pass them out willy-nilly.” 

The harassment and assault allegations surrounding Weinstein were an open secret in Hollywood, and to many entertainment reporters, Froelich says. For example, in 2013, the actor and comedian, Seth MacFarlane, made a joke about the accusations while announcing nominees for the Academy Awards. The NBC sitcom, “30 Rock,” also made light of it in one episode. 

“It was not a joke, but people were making jokes about it,” Froelich says. “The problem is, even with the media, the watchdog, if I’m not there and I don’t see it happen, I have to rely on a source to tell me. That source is going to get slammed down by lawyers. If you don’t come from a lot of money, if you’re not some billionaire’s daughter, how are you going to afford that lawyer? It’s a bully tactic.” 

“We all knew the story, but you can’t back it up until something like this happens,” she says, referencing the financial settlements paid to Weinstein’s alleged accusers, which were just released to the media this week. 

When it comes to covering up lewd or even criminal sexual behavior, Froelich argues that the practice is incessant in Hollywood. 

“I think it’s gone on every day, in every different level,” she says. “There have been other people who have had allegations against them, but if you’re still powerful, it’s hard to take them down. I do believe that the only reason this came out now is because Harvey wasn’t that powerful anymore. If he was still getting five to 10 Oscar nominations a year or ruling the Oscars, would this have happened? Probably not.” 

Though Weinstein has been fired from Miramax, Froelich says she doesn’t believe many more star actors or celebrities will come out to speak against him. 

“Absolutely not,” she says. “Here’s the thing: They want to work. All these guys know each other. It’s a massive good ol' boy system, and if you want to work, you keep your mouth shut.”

This story originally appeared on The Takeaway

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