Actor Matt Damon defended himself against an accusation he helped kill an article in 2004 that sought to expose producer Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment of women.
Damon said he only vouched for Weinstein’s colleague and wasn’t aware what the story was about.
Weinstein, 65, was recently fired from his co-chair position at Weinstein Co production company after The New York Times reported that he had made eight settlements with women who had accused him of unwanted physical contact and sexual harassment over three decades.
Damon was connected to Weinstein’s scandal by an Oct. 8 article in The Wrap by Sharon Waxman, a former New York Times reporter.
Waxman wrote she tried to file a story in 2004 that claimed Fabrizio Lombardo, head of Miramax Italy, “had no film experience and his real job was to take care of Weinstein’s women needs, among other things.”
She also wrote she tracked down a woman paid off by Weinstein after an unwanted sexual encounter.
Waxman said the story was stripped of any reference to sexual favors or coercion after “intense pressure from Weinstein, which included having Matt Damon and Russell Crowe call me directly to vouch for Lombardo and unknown discussions well above my head at the Times.”
Damon said he did vouch for Lombardo, but didn’t know what the article was about.
“My recollection was that it was about a one minute phone call,” Damon told Deadline. “Harvey had called me and said, they’re writing a story about Fabrizio, who I knew from The Talented Mr. Ripley. He has organized our premiere in Italy and so I knew him in a professional capacity and I’d had dinner at his house. Harvey said, Sharon Waxman is writing a story about Fabrizio and it’s really negative. Can you just call and tell her what your experience with Fabrizio was. So I did, and that’s what I said to her.”
Damon said he had “perfectly professional experiences” with Lombardo. He also said he never saw the alleged sexually inappropriate behavior of Weinstein.
“If there was ever an event that I was at and Harvey was doing this kind of thing and I didn’t see it, then I am so deeply sorry, because I would have stopped it,” he said.
“For the record, I would never, ever, ever try to kill a story like that. I just wouldn’t do that. It’s not something I would do, for anybody.”
Dean Baquet, The New York Times executive editor, said it was “unimaginable” to him the paper killed a story because of pressure from Weinstein, a longtime advertiser with the paper.
“The top two editors at the time, Bill Keller and Jill Abramson, say they have no recollection of being pressured over Ms. Waxman’s story,” Baquet, who wasn’t with the paper in 2004, said in an Oct. 9 statement.
Waxman said Jonathan Landman, then-culture editor at The New York Times, thought her story was unimportant and asked her why it mattered. “He’s [Lombardo] not a publicly elected official,” he allegedly told her.
Landman, now editor of columnists at Bloomberg View, said he didn’t remember such a conversation with Waxman and questioned whether her story was solid enough for publishing, Politico reported.