Matt Damon faced a wave of backlash Friday after he told film critic Peter Travers that he believes there is a “spectrum” of sexual misconduct that needs to be taken into account when evaluating the men who have faced allegations in recent months.
“There’s a difference between patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation,” Damon said Tuesday on “Popcorn with Peter Travers.” “Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated.”
His comparison: Senator Al Franken versus movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Franken, Damon said, was captured mugging for a photo that showed him inappropriately touching a woman. (For the record, several more women came forward to accuse Franken of groping and other inappropriate behavior. He announced Dec. 7 that he will resign in “the coming weeks.”) Weinstein, Damon continued, acted in ways that were “criminal.”
“When you talk about Harvey and what he’s accused of, there are no pictures of that, right? He knew he was up to no good. There’s no witnesses. There’s no pictures. There’s no braggadocio,” Damon said. “That stuff happened secretly because it was criminal and he knew it.”
The actor continued his thought by saying, “So they don’t belong in the same category.”
Alyssa Milano, who worked with Damon in “Glory Daze” in 1995, responded to Damon’s comments in a Twitter thread Friday night that started, “Dear Matt Damon, it’s the micro that makes the macro.”
“We are in a ‘culture of outrage,’” Milano continued, quoting Damon, “because the magnitude of rage is, in fact, overtly outrageous. And it is righteous.”
Milano said she has been a victim of each component on the spectrum that Damon spoke about, and “they all hurt.”
I have been a victim of each component of the sexual assault spectrum of which you speak. They all hurt. And they are all connected to a patriarchy intertwined with normalized, accepted--even welcomed-- misogyny.— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) December 16, 2017
Women aren’t outraged because of particular actions, Milano said. They’re outraged because they were made to feel these actions were normal and were silenced.
We are not outraged because someone grabbed our asses in a picture. We are outraged because we were made to feel this was normal. We are outraged because we have been gaslighted. We are outraged because we were silenced for so long.— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) December 16, 2017
Milano went on to compare Damon’s spectrum philosophy to the spectrum of cancer.
“There are different stages of cancer,” she wrote. “Some more treatable than others. But it’s still cancer.”
Sexual harassment, misconduct, assault and violence is a systemic disease. The tumor is being cut out right now with no anesthesia. Please send flowers. #MeToo— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) December 16, 2017
Minnie Driver, Damon’s ex-girlfriend and former “Good Will Hunting” co-star, also responded to the star’s comments on Twitter, posting: “God God, SERIOUSLY?”
Driver followed it with another tweet, this time writing: “Gosh it’s so *interesting how men with all these opinions about women’s differentiation between sexual misconduct, assault and rape reveal themselves to be utterly tone deaf and as a result, systemically part of the problem( *profoundly unsurprising).”
Gosh it?s so *interesting how men with all these opinions about women?s differentiation between sexual misconduct, assault and rape reveal themselves to be utterly tone deaf and as a result, systemically part of the problem( *profoundly unsurprising)— Minnie Driver (@driverminnie) December 15, 2017
In addition to the controversial comparison, Damon talked at length about the issue of sexual misconduct in Hollywood.
Damon said it’s been a “watershed moment” that women have felt empowered to share their stories and hold men accountable for sexual misconduct.
He also said people should try to be optimistic about the state of the movie business and of men overall. Even though many, many men have been accused of sexual misconduct, he said, there are still droves of men who are good people.
“This [is] like 1 percent of the guys who are losing their careers,” Damon said. “It’s not everybody. It just feels like it.”
However, Damon, as a father of four daughters, said he is concerned that children are not being taught the importance of personal responsibility.
Damon pointed to Louis C.K., who was accused by several women of masturbating in front of them and other misconduct. The comedian admitted to his wrongdoing, Damon said, but he is being held in the same public light as many of the other men who have been accused of sexual misconduct but denied the allegations.
“This concept of personal responsibility is as important as anything else that they learn before they go off in the world,” Damon said, referring to kids.
Damon described it as a “bar-fight stage” that the trend now is to take a punitive approach to all allegations of sexual misconduct, rather than looking at each situation in its own light.
“We’re so energized to kind of get retribution, I think, and we live in this culture of outrage and injury, that we’re going to have to correct enough to kind of go, well, wait a minute, none of us came here perfect, you know what I mean? Like what’s the point of us being here other than to improve?”
Later in the interview, Damon said: “The fear for me is that right now, we’re in this moment where, at the moment, and I hope it doesn’t stay this way, the clear signal to men and to young people is deny it,” Damon continued, “because if you take responsibility for what you did, your life’s going to get ruined, but if you deny it, you can be in the White House, you can be the president.”
View Matt Damon’s interview
Aimee Ortiz contributed to this report. Felicia Gans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans.