Weinstein is the subject of a racketeering lawsuit filed by six women – Louisette Geiss, Katherine Kendall, Zoe Brock, Sarah Ann Thomas (AKA Sarah Ann Masse), Melissa Sagemiller and Nannette Klatt, who claim the producer sexually assaulted or harassed them and that his behaviour was covered up by a system of people working within his former studios Miramax and the Weinstein Company.
The plaintiffs allege that, due to the high number of women who have claimed misconduct by Weinstein, the producer’s “sexual enterprise” should be considered an organised crime group.
Lawyers for the mogul filed a motion to dismiss the suit on Tuesday, arguing that it was “fatally overbroad” and would apply to “all women who ever met with Weinstein, regardless of whether they claimed to have suffered any identifiable harm.
“Such women would include, presumably, Jennifer Lawrence, who told Oprah Winfrey she had known Weinstein since she was 20 years old and said ‘he had only ever been nice to me,’ and Meryl Streep, who stated publicly that Weinstein had always been respectful to her in their working relationship,” the suit continued.
Streep, who has collaborated with Weinstein on a number of films, responded to the motion in a statement issued to the Hollywood Reporter. “Harvey Weinstein’s attorneys’ use of my (true) statement – that he was not sexually transgressive or physically abusive in our business relationship – as evidence that he was not abusive with many other women is pathetic and exploitive,” the actor said.
“The criminal actions he is accused of conducting on the bodies of these women are his responsibility, and if there is any justice left in the system he will pay for them – regardless of how many good movies, made by many good people, Harvey was lucky enough to have acquired or financed.”
Streep’s comments were echoed by Lawrence, who in a statement said that, “Harvey Weinstein and his company are continuing to do what they have always done which is to take things out of context and use them for their own benefit. This is what predators do, and it must stop.
“For the record, while I was not victimised personally by Harvey Weinstein, I stand behind the women who have survived his terrible abuse and I applaud them in using all means necessary to bring him to justice whether through criminal or civil actions. Time’s up,” Lawrence added.
Weinstein has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 75 women. A representative for the producer says that he denies all claims of “non-consensual sex” made against him.
The filing by Weinstein’s lawyers came the same day other defendants in the suit, including the Weinstein Company, sought to dismiss the legal action, with the company stating it was unaware of Weinstein’s conduct and that he should be considered solely responsible for his behaviour.