Actor Matt Damon is facing criticism following a series of comments he made regarding sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry during an ABC News interview with film critic Peter Travers.
Damon (inset) spoke with Travers about former Weinstein Company boss Harvey Weinstein; comedian and soon-to-be-ex-US Senator Al Franken; comedian and actor Louis C.K.; and actor Kevin Spacey, all of whom are facing sexual misconduct allegations. Damon also discussed how he would hypothetically deal with an accusation of sexual misconduct.
The Cambridge native said that we are currently living in a “culture of outrage and injury,” and that allegations of sexual misconduct need to be analyzed individually, rather than under one large umbrella.
“I do believe that there’s a spectrum of behavior, right? And we’re going to have to figure — you know, there’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right? Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated, right?”
Damon said that comparing someone like Franken, who’s been accused of groping and improper advances by multiple women, to someone like Weinstein, who faces allegations of rape, sexual assault, and other sexual misconduct dating back decades, is the wrong thing to do.
“When you see Al Franken taking a picture putting his hands on that woman’s flak jacket and mugging for the camera, going like that, you know, that is just like a terrible joke, and it’s not funny. It’s wrong, and he shouldn’t have done that. . . . But when you talk about Harvey and what he’s accused of, there are no pictures of that. He knew he was up to no good. There’s no witnesses. There’s no pictures. There’s no braggadocio. . . . So they don’t belong in the same category.”
Damon said he would have preferred that Franken face an Ethics Committee investigation, echoing an opinion held at one point by several of Franken’s Senate colleagues, including Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. After a new harassment allegation emerged, more than a dozen Senate members including Warren called for Franken’s resignation, which Franken gave on Dec. 7.
Damon also discussed the allegations by five women against C.K., which included claims that the Newton native masturbated in front of some of them without their consent. Damon said that after reading the actor’s apology, “I don’t imagine he’s going to do those things again.”
“The Louis C.K. thing, I don’t know all the details. I don’t do deep dives on this, but I did see his statement, which kind of, which [was] arresting to me. When he came out and said, ‘I did this. I did these things. These women are all telling the truth.’ And I just remember thinking, “Well, that’s the sign of somebody who — well, we can work with that.’ . . . Like, when I’m raising my kids, this constant personal responsibility is as important as anything else they learn before they go off in the world.”
Damon also compared and contrasted how he would deal with a hypothetical sexual misconduct claim a decade ago versus how he would deal with it now, saying that he thinks “the day of the confidentiality agreement is over.”
“Ten years ago, you made a claim against me and I had a big movie coming out, OK? I have $100 million or I have a movie that is personally important to me coming out, and close to the release of that film, you say, ‘Matt Damon grabbed my butt and stuck his tongue down my throat.’ We would then go to mediation and organize a settlement. I’d go, ‘I don’t want this out there. Peter’s going to go out and talk to the press and run his mouth, and it’s going to be overshadowing the opening of this movie. How much money do you want?’ The lawyers would get together, and they do this cost-benefit analysis, and they’d go, ‘Oh, this is what it’s worth.’ And I look at the number and go, ‘OK, I’ll pay it, but you can never talk about this again. You’re [expletive] lying about this, but never talk about this again.’
“Now . . . with social media, these stories get — it’s like they get gasoline poured on them. So the moment a claim is made, if you make that same claim today to me, I would be scorched earth. I’d go, ‘I don’t care if it costs $10 million to fight this in court with you for 10 years, you are not taking my name from me.’ ”
As for his relationship with Weinstein, who produced “Good Will Hunting,” Damon had this to say, about allegations of rape and sexual assault against the mogul:
“. . . nobody who made movies for him knew. . . . Any human being would have put a stop to that, no matter who he was. They would’ve said absolutely no. You know what I mean? . . . I knew I wouldn’t want him married to anyone close to me. But that was the extent of what we knew, you know? And that wasn’t a surprise to anybody. So when you hear Harvey this, Harvey that — I mean, look at the guy. Of course he’s a womanizer. . . . I mean, I don’t hang out with him.”
Damon’s remarks were widely condemned on social media by both fans and media columnists.
One of those critics was his “Good Will Hunting” costar Minnie Driver, who tweeted, “God God, SERIOUSLY?” (Kevin Slane, boston.com)