Donna Karan at a screening of The Weinstein Company’s Wind River (Getty Images)
As more Hollywood figures come forward to denounce Harvey Weinstein for his long history of sexual harassment, fashion designer Donna Karan took a different tactic on Tuesday night by victim-shaming. Karan told a reporter, “You look at everything all over the world today and how women are dressing and what they are asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble.”
The Daily Mail published video of Karan, on the red carpet for the CinéFashion Film Awards in Los Angeles, defending Weinstein to a reporter. She began, “I think we have to look at ourselves. Obviously, the treatment of women all over the world is something that has always had to be identified. Certainly in the country of Haiti where I work, in Africa, in the developing world, it’s been a hard time for women.”
Then she continued, “To see it here in our own country is very difficult, but I also think how do we display ourselves? How do we present ourselves as women? What are we asking? Are we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality? And what are we throwing out to our children today about how to dance and how to perform and what to wear? How much should they show?”
The NY Times published a report last week detailing how Weinstein, an Oscar-winning movie producer considered one of the most powerful people in Hollywood, would frequently prey upon young actresses and female assistants, and settled at least eight incidents, including one with actress Rose McGowan. Another actress, Ashley Judd, recounted how Weinstein set up a meeting in his hotel suite and asked her to give him a massage and watch him shower.
Other women have been coming forward with their own experiences with Weinstein, including a former News 12 reporter who said he tried to kiss her and then masturbated in front of her.
When the reporter asked Karan whether this was a reckoning for Hollywood, Karan replied, “I don’t think it’s only Harvey Weinstein. I don’t think we’re only looking at him. I think we’re looking at a world much deeper than that. Yes, I think he’s being looked at right now as a symbol, not necessarily as him. I know his wife, I think they’re wonderful people, Harvey has done some amazing things. I think we have to look at our world and what we want to say and how we want to say it as well.”
Karan built a fashion empire by promoting strong and, yes, sexy women through her Donna Karan and DKNY lines, revolutionizing how working women dressed with pieces like the bodysuit. In 1992, she envisioned a female president in the “In Women We Trust” ad campaign, which featured the president’s black lace bra peeking through her shirt. Karan’s clothes became favorites of powerful women, like Hillary Clinton and Candice Bergen wearing her “cold shoulder” dress.
On Tuesday, Karan said she “made a statement that was not representative of how I feel or what I believe. My statements were taken out of context and do not represent how I feel about the current situation concerning Harvey Weinstein. I believe that sexual harassment is NOT acceptable and this is an issue that MUST be addressed once and for all regardless of the individual. I am truly sorry to anyone that I offended and everyone that has ever been a victim.”
Weinstein admitted to bad behavior after the Times’ story dropped, but also claimed, “I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then. I have since learned it’s not an excuse, in the office – or out of it.”
Weinstein said he was getting help for his issues and would take a leave of absence. However, he was fired from the production company he co-founded with his brother, The Weinstein Company, on Sunday.
Before the dismissal, he reportedly asked other figures in Hollywood to send supportive emails in an attempt to save his job, “If the industry supports me, that is all I need… I need you to send a letter to my private Gmail address. The letter would only go to the board and no one else. We believe what the board is trying to do is not only wrong but might be illegal and would destroy the company.”
Confirmed: among the power players who refused to support Weinstein were Ron Meyer, David Zaslav, Jeffrey Katzenberg
— Janice Min (@janicemin) October 9, 2017
One big player who refused to respond positively to Weinstein’s email plea tells me he replied in essence: “no f-ing chance”
— Janice Min (@janicemin) October 9, 2017
More stars have been coming out to support the women who have spoken out about Weinstein’s treatment. Julianne Moore Tweeted, “1. Coming forward about sexual abuse and coercion is scary and women have nothing to be gained personally by doing so. 2. But through their bravery we move forward as a culture, and I thank them. Stand with @AshleyJudd @rosemcgowan and others.”
George Clooney told the Daily Beast Weinstein was “indefensible,” but added, “I’ve never seen any of this behavior—ever.
How did you react to the Harvey Weinstein news?
“I’ve heard rumors, and the rumors in general started back in the ’90s, and they were that certain actresses had slept with Harvey to get a role. It seemed like a way to smear the actresses and demean them by saying that they didn’t get the jobs based on their talent, so I took those rumors with a grain of salt. But the other part of this, the part we’re hearing now about eight women being paid off, I didn’t hear anything about that and I don’t know anyone that did. That’s a whole other level and there’s no way you can reconcile that. There’s nothing to say except that it’s indefensible.
The thing I’ve been seeing online is that, in the wake of Meryl Streep’s statement, and knowing that he helped guide her to an Oscar for The Iron Lady, many people are saying, “Oh, she had to know.” But that seems both incredibly speculative and unfair.
A lot of people are doing the “you had to know” thing right now, and yes, if you’re asking if I knew that someone who was very powerful had a tendency to hit on young, beautiful women, sure. But I had no idea that it had gone to the level of having to pay off eight women for their silence, and that these women were threatened and victimized. I’ve been talking with a lot of people about this, and I don’t know many people who knew of that.
He also mentioned how The Wrap’s Sharon Waxman said that her story about Weinstein was killed at the Times in 2004, “[I]f that’s true, then that’s a shameful thing because a lot of women wouldn’t have been made victims if this had come out. By the same token, I do want to say that Sharon’s been running her own influential website, The Wrap, for quite a long time, and if she did these interviews and this investigation, she didn’t run the story either, and I and a lot of other people would have liked to have known it.”