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‘Manchester’ director defends Casey Affleck, rips student journalist

Casey Affleck (left) and Kenneth Lonergan attended the 2017 Film Independent Spirit Awards last month.
Casey Affleck (left) and Kenneth Lonergan attended the 2017 Film Independent Spirit Awards last month.(Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Film Independent)

The Oscar-winning screenwriter for “Manchester by the Sea” has written a scathing critique of a college journalist over an opinion piece about sexual harassment allegations leveled against actor Casey Affleck.

In a letter to the editor of The Wesleyan Argus, Kenneth Lonergan, a former Wesleyan student, refers to the piece as a “tangle of illogic, misinformation, and flat-out slander.” He also defends Affleck.

Last week, in a piece titled “How Wesleyan is Complicit in Affleck’s Sexual Misconduct by Endorsing Lonergan ‘84’, ” Connor Aberle, the assistant opinion editor for the student paper, wrote that Affleck’s best actor win was “severely problematic.”

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“Wesleyan University cannot insist on claiming credit for Kenneth Lonergan unless they also acknowledge their complicity in the success of a perpetrator of sexual violence,” wrote Aberle. “Lonergan essentially won Affleck his Oscar by handpicking Affleck for his movie.”

Two women who worked with Affleck on the film “I’m Still Here” accused him of sexual harassment in a 2010 lawsuit. Affleck has denied the allegations. The claims from the suit prompted an online backlash for the Cambridge native’s best actor Oscar for his work in “Manchester by the Sea.” Affleck has said both sides in the case can’t talk about the allegations and added that those who are denouncing him don’t know what happened.

In his letter, Lonergan, who also directed “Manchester by the Sea,” criticized Aberle for sloppy writing, citing the latter’s “random use of the terms ‘sexual misconduct’ ‘sexual harassment’ ‘sexual abuse’ and ‘sexual violence,’ as if they were legally or physically interchangeable.”

“[H]e writes as if Casey Affleck were actually guilty of a crime,” Lonergan wrote in the letter. “In fact, it was alleged 7 years ago, in a civil lawsuit for breach of contract, that Casey sexually harassed two women formerly in his employ.”

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He continued, “Casey denounced the allegations as being totally fabricated. Like most civil suits, this one was settled out of court by mutual consent on undisclosed terms. In other words nothing was proved or disproved.”