While Harvey Weinstein’s current defense attorney, Donna Rotunno, made waves this week by telling CBS This Morning’s Gayle King that she doesn’t “believe he’s a rapist,” two other prominent lawyers linked to Weinstein’s case are undergoing new scrutiny — and being accused of working to discredit and silence his accusers.
Gloria Allred and Lisa Bloom, who happen to be mother and daughter as well as arguably the most well-known women’s rights attorneys in the country, were the subjects of the New York Times podcast The Daily on Wednesday and Thursday. Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, who won Pulitzers for their investigation exposing the multiple allegations of sexual assault against Weinstein, joined the podcast to share discoveries revealed in their just-published book about the case, She Said.
Wednesday’s episode of The Daily centered on the previously reported memo that Bloom, working as a legal adviser to Weinstein at the time allegations against him began to be made public, sent the mega-producer to outline her suggested strategies for discrediting accuser Rose McGowan. Bloom, who has since said that she’s “mortified” about having worked with Weinstein, has been accused of using her background representing women in high-profile sexual harassment lawsuits to undermine the allegations against the Hollywood figure.
Thursday’s follow-up episode, meanwhile, centered on Bloom’s mother, Allred. Allred — who is famed for her work in lawsuits involving charges of sexual discrimination, harassment and misconduct, including cases against R. Kelly and Bill Cosby — is representing two of Weinstein’s accusers ahead of the media mogul’s trial next January.
In 2017, Allred issued a statement which declined to explicitly pass judgment on her daughter for representing Weinstein but insisted that she personally would have turned down his case. “I only represent those who allege that they are victims of sexual harassment,” she noted.
According to Kantor and Twohey, however, there is more to the story. In 2004, Ashley Anderson — who now uses the name Ashley Matthau since her marriage to director Charles Matthau, son of the late actor Walter Matthau — accused Weinstein of sexually assaulting her on the set of Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. Working as a dancer on the 2004 film, Matthau says she was approached by Weinstein about opportunities in Hollywood and claims that during a meeting in his hotel room, he masturbated on top of her.
At the urging of her then-fiancé Matthau, the dancer contacted Allred for legal counsel. Because of Allred’s busy schedule, she was passed on to another lawyer, John West, at Allred’s firm, who advised her to settle with Weinstein for $125,000. As part of that secret settlement — which she tells Twohey she was encouraged to take because she wasn’t “strong enough to go up against him” — she was prohibited from speaking negatively about Weinstein.
Flash-forward to 2017, when Allred emerged as a champion of women with newly surfaced allegations against Weinstein — “which was funny because she didn’t really have the time back in 2004,” says Matthau, who, as Twohey notes during the podcast, is violating her settlement terms to break her silence about Weinstein and Allred.
To see Allred speak out against Weinstein so many years later “really upset me,” Matthau adds. She reached out to West, then Allred, to discuss her claims against Weinstein, because her therapist advised that speaking out might be beneficial.
“Gloria started the conversation with, ‘Do you realize how lucky you are to be on the phone with me while I’m in New York at 9 p.m. from my hotel room?’” Matthau recounts. “Like there were a lot of high-profile people. I was blown away by that. So I explained to her the way I was feeling. I felt that now, knowing all the stuff that I knew, that I felt that it was the right thing to do [to go public]. And she advised me against it.”
What was Gloria Allred, the foremost women's rights attorney in the country, doing when her firm silenced a Weinstein victim back in 2004?— jodikantor (@jodikantor) September 19, 2019
Business as usual.
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Yahoo has reached out to Allred, who declined to appear on The Daily due to scheduling concerns, for comment. She has yet to respond.
Matthau claims Allred told her she could be sued if she violated her NDA with Weinstein. “Are you willing to take that risk?” she allegedly told Matthau, who calls it a “really weird conversation.” “Are you and Charlie rich? How much money do you have?”
Matthau also claims that Allred warned her that she wouldn’t admit that her law firm had previously represented her in the 2004 case.
“They wouldn’t acknowledge that, but yet they have so many other clients after the fact, after it all broke out, so that upset me,” she tells Twohey. “Maybe she felt like she would lose money on [the settlement]? I don’t really know what the reason was. I thought it was either that, or it was ... something to do with her knowing about this whole Weinstein thing back in 2004 and her being the top women’s rights activist and being known for that, having that reputation.
“I thought that she would be behind me, especially since she knew a lot about the case and was representing other people,” she adds. “I felt like she wanted all the media attention. Once it became a big story, then she wanted to be a part of it. But when it was not in front of the cameras, it was something that she didn’t [want].”
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