Amid Weinstein’s sexual harassment scandal, Clooney, 56, spoke out against the movie mogul. “It’s indefensible. That’s the only word you can start with. Harvey’s admitted to it, and it’s indefensible,” Clooney told The Daily Beast about his reaction to the news.
The Suburbicon director said he had heard “rumors” about Weinstein since the 1990s, but only that “certain actresses had slept with Harvey to get a role” and dismissed the gossip as something said to diminish the actresses’ talent.
“I’ve known Harvey for 20 years. … But I can tell you that I’ve never seen any of this behavior — ever,” Clooney said, adding that he was not aware of how Weinstein reportedly reached settlements with at least eight women, as first revealed by The New York Times. Eight women, including actress Ashley Judd, came forward in the NYT story to accuse the film mogul of sexual misconduct.
Weinstein and Clooney in 2005.
“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,” Clooney explained.
The father of two said that had he known prior to the revealing NYT story, he would’ve “confront[ed]” the issue.
Clooney said he felt “very bad” for all the victims, specifically pointing out Lauren Sivan, though not by name.
“I mean, cornering a young anchorwoman in the kitchen and jerking off into a potted plant? That’s not just some rumor about Harvey hitting on a woman; it’s disturbing on a whole lot of levels, because there had to be a lot of people involved in covering that up,” he said.
WATCH: Harvey Weinstein Forced Out of Own Company After Sexual Harassment Allegations
Describing Roger Ailes and Bill Cosby‘s sexual assault scandals as “watershed moments,” Clooney also called out Weinstein for being guilty of “taking advantage of people not in power” and being an “establishment figure up to some very shady stuff.”
“This is a big problem in our society,” he said. “This is a moral issue. We’re all going to have to be more diligent about it and look for any warning signs. Before, people weren’t paying enough attention to it. Now we have to. This is the moment to start scaring people like this into not acting this way anymore.”
But while he questioned the nature of Hollywood’s complicity, Clooney also said he believed it was not a case of people looking the other way.
“I don’t think that people were looking the other way; I think that people weren’t looking, because in some ways, a lecherous guy with money picking up younger girls is unfortunately not a news story in our society,” the actor said.
Clooney thinks the controversy may help change things for the better in Hollywood and beyond.
“Maybe that’s what good will come out of this: that not just in Hollywood, although Hollywood is now the focus, but in all of these cases the victims will feel that they will be listened to, and that they don’t need to be afraid,” the star said.
“Something good has to come out of this … victims have to feel safer to come out and tell their stories without the fear of losing their jobs, and they also need to be believed, which is a very important element of this,” the two-time Oscar winner added.
Clooney wasn’t the first to speak out against Weinstein. In addition to several of Hollywood’s leading ladies, male celebrities such as Christian Slater, James Gunn and Kevin Smith have lent their voices in support of those accusing Weinstein of alleged misconduct.
Weinstein’s alleged decades of sexual misconduct came to light on Thursday after eight women, including actress Ashley Judd, came forward to accuse the film mogul of sexual misconduct in an article by the New York Times. Following the allegations, the Oscar-winning film producer was removed from his powerhouse film studio The Weinstein Company.
“I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it. Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go,” Weinstein said, adding that he was working with therapists and planned to take time off to “deal with this issue head-on.”
Last week, Weinstein’s then-advisor, attorney Lisa Bloom, said in a statement that Weinstein “denies many of the accusations as patently false,” though Weinstein said that he “bear[s] responsibility for my actions” in an interview with The New York Post on Friday. Another lawyer for Weinstein, Charles Harder, said the mogul has plans to sue the New York Times.