You could hear a pin drop in the Emmanuel Centre as New York Times investigative journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey recounted the years leading up to 5 October 2017 – the day they broke the story accusing Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault.
The event “Breaking the Harvey Weinstein Story” was a collaboration between The New York Times and Intelligence Squared as part of their new series, Intelligence Talks.
Kantor and Twohey were promoting their new book, She Said, which details the three-year journey leading up to publishing details about the former Hollywood producer.
Weinstein is facing a trial in the United States where he stands accused of rape. He denies these charges and has previously denied other allegations of sexual misconduct.
Alongside the women were three others with their own stories about Weinstein; Laura Madden, a former production executive at Weinstein’s Miramax Films in London; Rowena Chiu, a former assistant of Weinstein’s in 1998; Zelda Perkins, a former assistant of Weinstein’s and current campaigner against non-disclosure agreements (NDAs); and Carrie Gracie, a BBC News presenter serving as the chair for the talk.
The talk mirrored the contents of the book — the early days when their notes were just speculation, the hesitation of the interviewees to share their stories, the moment Harvey Weinstein himself barged into the NYT offices, and the day they hit “publish”.
While sat in a semicircle the women discussed the reason for writing the novel. Kantor called the book an “X-ray of how power works”, and in their fight to uncover more and more information.
The women spoke of their trauma after alleging they were assaulted by Weinstein.
Madden shared, “I felt deep shame, deep humiliation and a sense of responsibility for what happened to me”.
Chiu shared the challenges she faced in speaking out. “The story is no longer your own… the story walks away from you and you’re no longer the protagonist you thought you were,” she said.
After confiding in her colleagues and family about the alleged assault, she thought the situation would be handled immediately. “I really thought it was that simple,” she confessed.
Both Chiu and Perkins revealed they were forced into signing an NDA but both Chiu and Perkins have since broken their NDA’s by speaking out against Weinstein.
The women’s stories are among others featured in the raw and honest novel. The novel includes accounts from both well-known and unknown women in the film industry, but it’s the unknown women who are the reason the story has made such an impact, the women agreed.
She Said includes real conversations and letters between the interviewees and the reporters.
The publishing of the story evoked different reactions from each woman. At first, Perkins felt “disappointed because I didn’t feel it was big enough.” She revealed the contents of the article wouldn’t “get him”, but conceded she felt different two days later.
Chiu had a “holy crap moment”. For so long she thought the story wouldn’t come out, and when it did “it sparked a global movement”.
When asked what has changed in the two years since the news story broke, Madden and Perkins agreed “everything but nothing” has changed. Men like Bill Cosby are being held accountable for their behaviour, but there are still people in positions of power using their connections and authority as a weapon.
Chiu felt this revelation meant that “some of us who are silent have found a voice”.
Harvey Weinstein’s trial is set for 6 January, 2020. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office will attempt to charge him with predatory sexual assault and rape. Harvey Weinstein denies all allegations of sexual misconduct.
She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey is on sale now.
Words: Derrian Douglas
Photos: Derrian Douglas