NEW YORK • Actress Meryl Streep led an increasingly vocal Hollywood chorus condemning the reported sexual misconduct of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein on Monday, issuing a carefully worded statement released to HuffPost. She decried the behaviour as "disgraceful" and "inexcusable", yet also pleaded ignorance about it, writing: "Not everybody knew."
Her statement seemed to have opened the floodgates, with actresses Glenn Close, Kate Winslet and Judi Dench, among others, soon voicing their own dismay and disgust about Weinstein.
And on Monday, SAG-AFTRA, Hollywood's largest union, called Weinstein's alleged behaviour "abhorrent and unacceptable".
Weinstein was fired on Sunday from his production company, The Weinstein Co, after The New York Times released an investigation last Thursday chronicling accusations that he had sexually harassed employees and actresses.
Late last Thursday, he called top Hollywood talent agents to ask them to speak up in his defence. When none did, he got more frantic. On Sunday, he sent an e-mail to agents and studio executives that said he was "desperate" for their help.
"All I'm asking is let me take a leave of absence and get into heavy therapy and counselling. Whether it be in a facility or somewhere else, allow me to resurrect myself with a second chance," he said in the e-mail, according to three people who received it or were briefed on it.
"Do not let me be fired. If the industry supports me, that is all I need."
His pleas were for nought. On Sunday night, he was fired by Bob Weinstein, the company's co-chairman and Weinstein's younger brother, and three other board members.
In recent days, many people called for reactions from Hollywood's A-list players, and especially Streep, a long-time champion of women's causes who worked with Weinstein on films such as The Iron Lady (2011), for which she won an Academy Award.
In her statement, she said Weinstein had been "respectful" during their working relationship and challenged the narrative that his misbehaviour had been a long-time open secret in Hollywood. "I did not know about his having meetings in his hotel room, his bathroom or other inappropriate, coercive acts. And if everybody knew, I don't believe that all the investigative reporters in the entertainment and the hard news media would have neglected for decades to write about it."
Dench said in a statement to Newsweek that while she had been "completely unaware" of any misconduct, she found it "horrifying" and gave her "whole-hearted support to those who have spoken out".
Her films with Weinstein include Shakespeare In Love (1998) and she has said she has a tattoo that reads "JD loves HW" on her rear end.
Several prominent men in show business - directors Kevin Smith and Judd Apatow, and actor Mark Ruffalo - took to Twitter to express disgust at Weinstein's behaviour.