Dustin Hoffman Grilled by John Oliver Over Sexual Harassment Claims
By Jackie Willis
John Oliver did not let Dustin Hoffman off the hook when it came to responding to sexual harassment accusations leveraged against him. Last month, Anna Graham Hunter alleged that the 80-year-old actor groped her and made inappropriate comments when she was a 17-year-old intern on the set of his 1985 TV movie, Death Of A Salesman.
On Monday, Oliver moderated a Tribeca Film panel for the 20th anniversary of Wag the Dog, which included Hoffman, Robert De Niro, producer Jane Rosenthal and director Barry Levinson. In a video taken by WWD's Kathryn Hopkins, the Last Week Tonight host brings up the "elephant in the room," telling the panel, "This is something we’re going to have to talk about because … it’s hanging in the air."
“It’s hanging in the air?” Hoffman responded. “From a few things you’ve read you’ve made an incredible assumption about me. You’ve made the case better than anyone else can. I’m guilty.”
Oliver then references Hoffman's apology statement that he released following the allegations Hunter made to The Hollywood Reporter. The statement reads: "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."
"I still don’t know who this woman is,” Hoffman told Oliver. “I never met her. If I met her, it was in concert with other people.”
Bringing it back to the actor's statement, Oliver chimed in, "It’s ‘not reflective of who I am’ -- it’s that kind of response to this stuff that pisses me off. It is reflective of who you were. If you’ve given no evidence to show it didn’t [happen] then there was a period of time for a while when you were a creeper around women. It feels like a cop-out to say ‘it wasn’t me.’ Do you understand how that feels like a dismissal?”
Hoffman -- who accused Oliver of putting him "on display" during the panel -- then asked, "Do you believe everything you read?"
"Yes, because there’s no point in [an accuser] lying," Oliver responded.
Hoffman interjected, "Well, there’s a point in her not bringing it up for 40 years."
"Oh, Dustin," Oliver retaliated.
At one point, Rosenthal chimed in, saying, "You also have the way men and women worked together [in the past]; you are in a situation where ‘that was then, this is now.' [And] what difference is all this going to make?…This conversation doesn’t do any good. We have a platform here. How are we moving [the issue] forward?"
Calling out the sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, Rosenthal added, "It wasn’t produced by Weinstein or Miramax…Kevin Spacey wasn’t starring in it. Let’s look at real sexual criminal predators."
Oliver responded, "That’s a low bar."
Further attempting to defend himself, Hoffman talked about what he learned from the 1982 movie Tootsie, where he played a man portraying a woman, insisting that he wouldn't have made the film had he not had an "incredible respect for women."
"What makes me sad is that I grew up in an environment in which we were taught to want the girls on the covers of magazines, the models," he explained. "I said to my wife ‘Look at how many interesting women I passed up … look at how many women were erased by me because of the generation I was born.’ That was a very strong reason for me wanting to make that movie."
Calling out Oliver, Hoffman continued, "It’s shocking to me you don’t see me more clearly. That you go by a couple of things you read."
Oliver bit back, "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 ...No one stands up to powerful men."
"Am I a powerful man?" Hoffman retorted. "Keep a kind of open mind if you can, John."
"I'm trying," Oliver responded.
"Well I’m trying harder than you are," Hoffman retaliated. "You weren’t there."