After Harvey Weinstein's legal team used a previous statement from Meryl Streep as ammunition in their fight against a lawsuit, Streep released a new statement rebuking the movie mogul on Wednesday.
Last year, Streep stated that Weinstein "was exasperating but respectful with me in our working relationship, and with many others with whom he worked professionally." She also said in December that "not every actor, actress, and director who made films that [Weinstein] distributed knew he abused women, or that he raped Rose [McGowan] in the 90s, other women before and others after, until they told us." Weinstein's lawyers used Streep's "respectful" phrasing in a legal document filed in a New York federal court this week.
In a clarifying statement to The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday, Streep said her words did not amount to an endorsement of Weinstein's character. "Harvey Weinstein's attorneys' use of my (true) statement – that he was not sexually transgressive or physically abusive in our business relationship – as evidence that he was not abusive with many OTHER women is pathetic and exploitive," the actress asserted.
"The criminal actions [Weinstein] is accused of conducting on the bodies of these women are his responsibility," she continued. "And if there is any justice left in the system, he will pay for them – regardless of how many good movies, made by many good people, Harvey was lucky enough to have acquired or financed."
Weinstein's team used Streep's previous statements in a motion to dismiss a class action lawsuit filed last December by six women against Weinstein, his brother Bob, The Weinstein Co., Miramax and others. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the women sued for "battery, assault, negligent supervision and retention, both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress." In addition, the group argued that what they called "the Weinstein Sexual Enterprise" should be treated by the court as a racketeering organization – a classification also used in cases again major crime operations like the Luccheses, a New York mafia family.
On Tuesday, the Weinstein Company's lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the suit in New York federal court, arguing that Weinstein's actions were his own, not part of a "business plan… to lure potential actresses into business meetings with H. Weinstein so that he could assault them."
The same day, Weinstein also filed a motion to dismiss. His lawyers argued that a class action lawsuit was relying on "proposed class definitions [that] are fatally over-broad... As drafted, they would include all women who ever met with Weinstein, regardless of whether they claimed to have suffered any identifiable harm as a result of that meeting. Such women would include, presumably, Jennifer Lawrence, who told Oprah Winfrey she had known Weinstein since she was 20 years old and said 'he had only ever been nice to me,' and Meryl Streep, who stated publicly that Weinstein had always been respectful to her in their working relationship." This language occasioned Streep's sharp response on Thursday.
The ongoing class action suit in New York is just one of several suits that Weinstein and the Weinstein Company are facing since The New York Times and The New Yorker first broke stories alleging that the executive had harassed, assaulted and raped numerous women over multiple decades. Earlier this month, the New York Attorney General's office also sued the Weinstein Company. "As alleged in our complaint, the Weinstein Company repeatedly broke New York law by failing to protect its employees from pervasive sexual harassment, intimidation, and discrimination," Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.