Now Reading: John Oliver Confronts Dustin Hoffman Over Sexual Harassment Allegations


John Oliver Confronts Dustin Hoffman Over Sexual Harassment Allegations

December 5, 20175 min read

At an anniversary screening of the film ‘Wag the Dog’, discussions quickly descended into a heated debate when the ‘Last Week Tonight’ host John Oliver, the moderator of the panel, brought up the recent sexual harassment allegations against actor Dustin Hoffman.

Oliver initiated the discussion around the recent sexual harassment scandals around halfway through the Q&A he was moderating, stating that the accusations towards Hoffman were ‘hanging in the air’, something that clearly made Hoffman uncomfortable, as he accused Oliver of having made ‘an incredible assumption’ about him.

They were alluding to the claims published in The Hollywood Reporter by Anna Graham Hunter who alleged that when she was interning on the set of the TV movie ‘Death of A Salesman’ in 1985, when she was just 17, she was repeatedly sexually harassed by Dustin Hoffman. She extensively detailed in diaries from her time working there the highly sexual jokes and groping that she was forced to put up with. At the time that the allegations were published, Hoffman issued a halfhearted apology, where he claimed that the allegations were “not reflective of who I am.”

Responding to this during the Q&A, Oliver said “It’s that part of the response to this stuff that pisses me off. It is reflective of who you were. You’ve given no evidence to show that it didn’t happen. There was a period of time when you were creeping around women. It feels like a cop-out to say, ‘Well, this isn’t me.’ Do you understand how that feels like a dismissal?”‘

Tensions grew even further as Hoffman seemed blindsided by the topic being introduced, stating that he felt Oliver was “putting [him] on display” and accused him of not having an “open mind.”

He went as far as to ask the HBO host whether he believed the accusers, to which Oliver replied “Yes, because there’s no point in lying”

Hoffman’s response seemed typical of those who question why women wait to report such incidents, as he said “Well, there’s a point in her not bringing it up for 40 years.”

John Oliver was visibly disappointed by this comment, saying “Oh Dustin” in a weary tone.

There was then an attempt made to frame the allegations in the context that they were made in, an admittedly incredibly different climate than today, with Jane Rosenthal, the only woman on the panel, stating “‘that was then, this is now,;” and arguing that this wasn’t going to move things forward, even stating that they should “look at real sexual criminal predators.”

But still, the conversation did not seem to be over. The audience clearly felt the tensions and awkwardness that was coming from the stage, one member of the crowd shouted “Move on. Let it go” but another shouted “Thank you for believing women.” and was cheered.

Ultimately, Oliver made a powerful statement about why he’d chosen to bring up these controversial issues: “I can’t leave certain things unaddressed,” the host said. “The easy way is not to bring anything up. Unfortunately that leaves me at home later at night hating myself. ‘Why the…didn’t I say something? No one stands up to powerful men.’”

The last line hits hard because of the undeniable truth of what he is saying. One of the reasons that sexual misconduct has run so rampant in Hollywood is precisely because no one is standing up to these powerful men, who then become convince they are untouchable. Oliver took a bold risk in confronting this head on – though it shouldn’t have to be a risk to call out these people when they deserve it – and people should be following his lead.

Until everyone chooses not to take the easy way out, we will not achieve the justice or the climate that we need, but people like John Oliver are helping us get there, one uncomfortable conversation at a time.

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Clara Popp

Clara is a 19 year old intersectional feminist, opinionated student and aspiring journalist. She can be reached via twitter - @clarapopp - or through email at [email protected].