ON MONDAY NIGHT, John Oliver was moderating a discussion on the film Wag The Dog at an event to celebrate its 20th anniversary.
The panel featured stars of the movie Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro as well as producer Jane Rosenthal and director Barry Levinson.
Oliver turned the discussion to a recent allegation of sexual assault against Hoffman, along with the general problem in Hollywood – and Deadline reported from the scene that it was a long, tetchy stand-off:
Warning it was “likely to be the tensest part of the evening,” Oliver started in with Hoffman. The tension would linger for 30 agonizing minutes as the two engaged in an anguished back and forth centering on the actor’s deeds and the response to his response to the allegations.
A video taken by The Washington Post at the event shows around six minutes of the heated exchangeSource: Washington Post/YouTube
Referring to Hoffman’s statement on Anna Graham Hunter’s allegations of sexual assault, Oliver said:
It.. What you stated… I mean, it’s that part of it…’it’s not reflective of who I am’. It’s that kind of response to this stuff that p***es me off because it is reflective of who you were. If it happened and you’ve given no evidence to show that it didn’t happen, there was a period of time, for a while, when you were creepy around women. So, it almost feels like a cop out to say oh this isn’t me. Do you understand how that feels like a dismissal?
It’s difficult to ask that question. You weren’t there. You didn’t…
We were doing this. And to break it up, actors, people on crew, all these things — you do things. You say things. So suddenly one of the things was you come to work on Monday: “Did you have sex Friday?” You break it up. Everyone was saying it to each other. It’s a thing. You know, I don’t know if you’ve ever been in that kind of situation. But, it becomes a fad in which, you know, I said a stupid thing, you know, but I said it in the midst of the crew. And they said their stupid things. But they were sexual in terms of the humour of it. But that’s 19… That’s 40 years ago.
I don’t.. I don’t love that response either.
What response do you want?
It’s not for me to say. It’s just, it feels like dismissals, or re-contextualizing it or not actually addressing it. It doesn’t feel self reflective in the way that it seems the incident demands.
Along with that exchange, this specific section has gone viral
The video has circulated far and wide since it was published yesterday, with Deadline reporting that Oliver had cleared his intention to bring up the topic with the organisers:
Later, when Hoffman would complain about having been ambushed, Oliver said it was “on the organizers” for not conveying his stated intention to bring up the ultra-hot-button topic.
The British comedian has won praise in some quarters for broaching a difficult topic in such a public setting
Some saw the awkwardness between the two as proving how difficult it is to confront these issues for less powerful people
With some encouragement from the crowd during the exchange – and heckles to “move on” – Oliver addressed why he brought the issue up to Hoffman on the night:
I can’t leave certain things unaddressed. The easy way is not to bring anything up. Unfortunately that leaves me at home later at night hating myself. Why… didn’t I say something? No one stands up to powerful men.
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