- Was one of the most successful and prominent filmmakers in the world
- Was accused in 2017-18 of having raped and/or sexually assaulted at least 80 women over the years
Harvey Weinstein was born on March 19, 1952, in Queens, New York. His father, Max, was a diamond cutter by profession, and his mother, Miriam, was a homemaker and secretary. After graduating from SUNY Buffalo in 1973, Weinstein started a concert promotion business. Six years later, he and his brother Bob founded the Miramax Films Corporation, whose name was a blend of their parents’ first names. Miramax quickly became a major force in the movie industry, and Harvey Weinstein established himself as one of the most successful and prominent filmmakers in the world. For a list of all the films he has produced over the course of his professional career, click here.
Weinstein’s many successful films have included a handful of documentaries. One of those was Thin Blue Line (1988), which argued that a corrupt justice system in Dallas County had wrongly convicted a man of murder. Nineteen years later, Weinstein financed and helped to market and distribute Sicko, Michael Moore‘s scathing condemnation of the American healthcare system. And in 2009, Weinstein and his brother served as the executive producers of Capitalism: A Love Story, wherein Michael Moore portrays free-market capitalism as an economic system that places the pursuit of corporate profits above any interest in the public good. By Weinstein’s telling, documentaries “need to be transformational rather than self-important.”
In 1993 the Walt Disney Company purchased Miramax for an estimated $60 million, but the Weinstein brothers continued to serve as its as co-chairmen. They expanded the enterprise by launching a television division in 1998, creating Talk magazine in conjunction with Hearst Publishing in 1999, and establishing Talk Miramax Books in 2000.
Harvey and Bob Weinstein left Miramax in 2005 to found an independent film studio, The Weinstein Company, which also became enormously successful. In 2013 they reunited with Miramax by way of a co-production and co-distribution agreement.
In addition to his filmmaking activities, Harvey Weinstein also developed a reputation as a major financial supporter of leftist causes and political figures. He not only hosted fundraisers for luminaries like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but he also personally donated money to Mrs. Clinton’s campaigns ten times between 1999 and 2016, including a $5,400 contribution to (maximum allowed) to her 2016 presidential run, plus $30,000 to the Hillary Victory Fund (also in 2016). Moreover, Weinstein over the years has given at least $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation. (Weinstein also came to the aid of the Clintons in 1998, when they were racking up enormous legal expenses as then-President Bill Clinton was battling allegations that he had lied about his sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. According to The Washington Post, Weinstein donated the maximum $10,000 to Mr. Clinton’s legal defense fund.)
All told, Weinstein made more than 180 donations to Democratic candidates and organizations between 1997 and 2017. Among the political candidates and organizations that have received financial contributions from him are Rosa DeLauro, Dianne Feinstein, Tom Harkin, Kirsten Gillibrand, Barbara Boxer, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Al Franken, Charles Schumer, Russell Feingold, Patrick Leahy, Chris Dodd, Harry Reid, Tom Daschle, Robert Toricelli, Richard Durbin, Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Richard Blumenthal, Cory Booker, Joe Sestak, Howard Dean, John Edwards, John Kerry, the Democratic National Committee, and the Democratic Congressional and Senatorial Campaign Committees.
On October 5, 2017, the New York Times reported on a set of explosive allegations claiming that Weinstein had sexually harassed multiple women in the film industry over the course of a nearly thirty-year period, and that he had reached financial settlements with at least eight of them in an effort to prevent them from going public with their stories. Said the Times: “Dozens of Mr. Weinstein’s former and current employees, from assistants to top executives, said they knew of inappropriate conduct while they worked for him. Only a handful said they ever confronted him. Mr. Weinstein enforced a code of silence; employees of the Weinstein Company have contracts saying they will not criticize it or its leaders in a way that could harm its ‘business reputation’ or ‘any employee’s personal reputation,’ a recent document shows. And most of the women accepting payouts agreed to confidentiality clauses prohibiting them from speaking about the deals or the events that led to them.”
On October 8, The Weinstein Company’s board of directors fired Weinstein as a result of the mounting allegations against him.
On October 9, 2017, journalist Sharon Waxman revealed that thirteen years earlier, she had written an investigative report for The New York Times about Weinstein’s sexual misconduct. But that piece, Waxman said, was cut from the Times as a result of pressure from several Hollywood elites including Matt Damon and Russell Crowe, both of whom had previously worked on films with Weinstein. According to the culture-and-entertainment website Vulture.com: “[Waxman] says that because of their influence, and interference from Weinstein, whose company was a big advertiser in the Times, the article was edited to remove the more salacious details.”
“Three women … told me that Weinstein raped them, allegations that include Weinstein forcibly performing or receiving oral sex and forcing vaginal sex. Four women said that they experienced unwanted touching that could be classified as an assault. In an audio recording captured during a New York Police Department sting operation in 2015 … Weinstein admits to groping a Filipina-Italian model named Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, describing it as behavior he is ‘used to.’ Four of the women I interviewed cited encounters in which Weinstein exposed himself or masturbated in front of them. Sixteen former and current executives and assistants at Weinstein’s companies told me that they witnessed or had knowledge of unwanted sexual advances and touching at events associated with Weinstein’s films and in the workplace…. All sixteen said that the behavior was widely known within both Miramax and the Weinstein Company…. Virtually all of the people I spoke with told me that they were frightened of retaliation.”
Soon after those latest revelations, Weinstein’s wife of nearly ten years, Georgina Chapman, announced that she was leaving her husband.
By October 12, 2017, at least 30 women had come forward with allegations of harassment, molestation, and sexual assault by Weinstein. Weinstein, meanwhile, checked in to a Scottsdale, Arizona rehabilitation facility to receive psychological treatment at a cost of $40,000-per-month.
On November 18, 2017, The Guardian reported that earlier that year, Weinstein had personally drawn up a “hitlist” of 91 actors, publicists, producers, financiers, and others working in the film industry. Said the Guardian piece: “The names … were distributed to a team hired by the film producer to suppress claims that he had sexually harassed or assaulted numerous women…. Individuals named on the list were to be targeted by investigators who would covertly extract and accumulate information from those who might know of claims or who might come forward with allegations against the film producer. Feedback was then to be relayed to Weinstein and his lawyers.” By the time this Guardian report was published, more than 50 women had made allegations against Weinstein.
On May 25, 2018, Weinstein appeared in court to face charges that he had raped one woman and forced another to perform oral sex (incidents that had allegedly occurred in 2004 and 2013). The New York Times reported: “The criminal sex act count stemmed from an encounter with Lucia Evans, who first told The New Yorker, and then investigators from [Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus] Vance’s office, that Mr. Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him during what she expected would be a casting meeting at the Miramax office in TriBeCa in 2004. The victim in the rape case has not been publicly identified, but prosecutors said that that attack occurred on March 18, 2013, at … the DoubleTree Metropolitan Hotel.” At the court hearing, Weinstein paid $1 million in bail, surrendered his passport, agreed to wear a monitoring device, and pledged not to travel anywhere outside of New York State and Connecticut. On June 5, 2018, he formally pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.
On June 9, 2018, Weinstein pleaded not guilty to new charges brought against him by a woman who claimed that Weinstein had sexually assaulted her in 2006. A New York judge dismissed these charges four months later, on October 11.
By December 2018, the number of women who had accused Weinstein of sexual assault and rape was more than 80.
On May 24, 2019, Weinstein and the board of The Weinstein Company reached a reported $44 million settlement in the class action civil suit in which alleged victims were seeking compensation.
On December 11, 2019, Weinstein’s bail was increased from $1 million to $5 million following the prosecution’s claims that he had tampered with his electronic ankle monitor on a number of occasions.
Weinstein’s rape trial in New York began on January 6, 2020. On February 24, the jury convicted Weinstein of third-degree rape of Jessica Mann, a former aspiring actress, as well as one count of a criminal sexual act in the first degree against Mimi Haley, a former “Project Runway” production assistant. But the jury found him not guilty on two counts of predatory sexual assault, and also on one count of first-degree rape against Mann. On March 11, 2020, Weinstein was sentenced to a total of 23 years in prison — 20 years for criminal sexual act and 3 years for rape.