John Oliver demanded Dustin Hoffman answer historic allegations about sexual harassment during a heated public discussion in New York City on Monday, in an exchange captured on video.
The HBO host was interviewing the actor at a commemorative screening of the 1997 movie Wag the Dog when Oliver brought up an allegation made against Hoffman in November that he had groped and made inappropriate comments to a 17 year-old intern on the set of the 1985 movie Death Of A Salesman.
In the video first published by the Washington Post on Monday, Hoffman, 80, complained that the reporting of the allegations had presumed guilt on his part. In a statement at the time, the actor said “I have the utmost respect for women and feel terrible that anything I might have done could have put her in an uncomfortable situation. I am sorry. It is not reflective of who I am.”
“There’s a key word that’s left out in the quoting, as it goes around the world,” he said on Monday. “And that is ‘if’ I did anything that was out of sorts, or if I embarrassed her, I apologize. And the word ‘if’ is important. Now it just says he apologized.”
But Oliver was having none of it. “It’s that kind of response to this stuff that pisses me off,” he said. “It feels like a cop-out to say, ‘this isn’t me.’ Do you see how this feels like a dismissal?”
“You’ve made a judgement, a very quick judgement,” said Hoffman, who cited the sexually-charged nature of the humor on film sets as context for his behavior.
Oliver took issue with Hoffman’s original response, telling him it didn’t “feel self-reflective in the way that it seems the incident demands.”
“Do you believe this stuff that you’re reading?” Hoffman asked Oliver.
“I believe what she wrote, yes,” the Last Week Tonight presenter replied. Asked why by Hoffman, he said: “Because there’s no point in her lying.”
“Well, there’s a point in her not bringing this up for 40 years,” Hoffman replied, to sighs and groans from Oliver and the audience. Hoffman then laid out his version of events, where he claimed he touched her momentarily, and innocently. It was “nothing,” he said.
Anna Graham Hunter claimed Hoffman had harassed her when she worked as a production intern on the 1985 movie. After she came forward, writer and producer Wendy Riss Gatsounis alleged Hoffman had propositioned her inappropriately during a pitch meeting in 1991.
Since multiple women first came out to accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment in October, Hollywood has been shaken by sexual misconduct revelations that critics claim exposes a structural problem within the industry. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world have taken to Twitter to share their stories of sexual misconduct, using the hashtag #MeToo, and revelations have shaken professional worlds from politics to media, entertainment and sport.