Celebrity attorney Lisa Bloom has built a career representing victims of sexual harassment and assault. Now she says she's trying to "make a difference here on the other side" by defending movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday, Bloom both defended Weinstein and acknowledged he'd been "stupid." She saluted the women who have come forward to allege wrongdoing but said many allegations were overblown and consisted of Weinstein telling a woman she "looked cute without my glasses."
"He wanted to be respectful to women and he still wants to be respectful to women. And he's asked me, of all people, to help guide him in that direction, to explain to him the laws of sexual harassment and why this is important," Bloom said.
Weinstein has been among the most powerful people in Hollywood. An Oscar-winner for producing "Shakespeare in Love," he has been behind classics including "Good Will Hunting" and "Pulp Fiction." The New York Times reported that Weinstein had reached at least eight legal settlements with women over alleged harassment. The allegations have been levied by actresses including Ashley Judd and former employees at both the Weinstein Co. and Weinstein's former company, Miramax.
Bloom has long represented women in high-profile sexual harassment cases, including alleged victims of former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly and model Janice Dickinson in her case against Bill Cosby. She said she met Weinstein a year ago after his company decided to develop Bloom's book "Suspicion Nation." She said she confronted him then about rumors of harassment in a "frank, blunt way."
"I was very surprised that he admitted to being stupid, to saying things that he shouldn't have said and I told him that needs to be your approach. You can't go back and change what's happened in the past but you can go forward and acknowledge it, ask for forgiveness, change your behavior," she said. "And I thought I had a chance to make a difference here on the other side. We'll see if I've done that right."
Weinstein's attorney, Charles J. Harder, said in a statement that the Times story is "saturated with false and defamatory statements." Bloom more gently poured cold water on the report, saying there have been some complaints against Weinstein but "not as many as" the Times said. She added that some of the allegations were "incorrect" and that eyewitnesses had "a different perspective."
"Some of the allegations which I have read are, 'He told me I had a nice dress on.' 'He told me I looked cute without my glasses.' Probably he shouldn't be saying things like that in the workplace. Does that rise to the level of sexual harassment, legally? No, it doesn't," she said. "He does not admit to sexual harassment when he does admit to his misconduct."
She repeatedly tried to distance the Weinstein allegations from those of other men whom she has gone after in court.
"The facts there are very different. Bill Cosby is accused of being a serial rapist," she said. "There's allegedly a recording of Bill O'Reilly calling women while he was masturbating. So that's a whole different level. In this case we are talking if the allegations are that he said some stupid things he said some things he clearly should not have said. He said some things that are offensive to women and he said, 'Lisa you know help me understand you know why can't I just make jokes? Why can't I just say things like that?' 'You know Harvey? ... It's 2017 for God's sake.' I mean those have been the kinds of conversations we've had."
The allegations against Weinstein have been more than verbal, but Bloom said that he disputes those accusations.
Bloom's decision to be a public advocate for Weinstein has surprised some. Even her mother, famed attorney Gloria Allred, said she would not have taken on Weinstein. But in an interview later with The Associated Press, Allred said her statement was not a criticism of her daughter.
"She has the right to rep anyone that in her professional opinion she should represent. I have no problem with that at all," he said. "I only represent victims of sexual harassment. I don't represent people who are accused of sexual harassment. But people who are accused of sexual harassment are also entitled to have an attorney."
Bloom said Weinstein has anger problems and said he can be intimidating. She said he "knows he has to work on that" and praised him for acknowledging that he "hurt people." But she said that unlike at Fox News when women came forward with allegations of sexual abuse, Weinstein was not "trashing them, sending private investigators to dig up dirt on them, humiliating them."
"I salute any woman that comes forward with complaints of sexual harassment you know? Harvey has had to learn. This is not an easy time for him either. Probably nobody has sympathy for him right now and that's fine. But this is a guy who has thrown away the old playbook of let's attack the women, let's dig up dirt on their past, let's humiliate them, let's fight. He's not doing any of that."
AP National Writer Jocelyn Noveck and AP Entertainment Writer Mark Kennedy contributed to this report.