Matt Damon Defends Himself, But.

[Content Note: Rape culture.]

Matt Damon, who was accused of being enlisted by Harvey Weinstein to kill a story on his predation in 2004, has given an interview to Deadline in which he shares his version of events:
DEADLINE: It was reported that you and Russell Crowe were conscripted by Harvey Weinstein to call Sharon Waxman in an effort to derail a New York Times piece similar to the ones we are reading now.

DAMON: My recollection was that it was about a one minute phone call. Harvey had called me and said, they're writing a story about Fabrizio, who I knew from The Talented Mr. Ripley. He has organized our premiere in Italy and so I knew him in a professional capacity and I'd had dinner at his house. Harvey said, Sharon Waxman is writing a story about Fabrizio and it's really negative. Can you just call and tell her what your experience with Fabrizio was. So I did, and that's what I said to her. It didn't even make the piece that she wrote. As I recall, her piece just said that Russell and I had called and relayed our experience with Fabrizio. That was the extent of it and so I was very surprised to see it come back. I was never conscripted to do anything. We vouch for each other, all the time, and it didn't even make her article. Whether it didn't jibe with her storyline…it was an incomplete rendering of someone that I was giving but I had perfectly professional experiences with Fabrizio and I didn't mind telling her that.

I'm sure I mentioned to her that I didn't know anything about the rest of her piece, because I didn't. And I still don't know anything about that and Fabrizio. My experience with him was all above board and that's what I told her.

DEADLINE: After The New York Times piece last week, Harvey reportedly went to Hollywood power brokers urging them to defend him in messages that would be conveyed to the board of directors deciding if he should be fired. No one did, apparently. It would be easy to misinterpret your overture in a similar way. When Harvey asked you to do that, was there any mention that Sharon Waxman was reporting a piece on the indiscretions we are reading about now?

DAMON: No, I just remember it being a negative piece, a hit job on Fabrizio, was what Harvey was saying. Basically, that he had no professional experience. Harvey said, you worked with him. Can you tell her that he was a professional and you had a good experience, and that was it. I didn't mind doing it, because that was all true.

...DEADLINE: Just to reiterate, Waxman didn't tell you the point of her story?

DAMON: She didn't. She called us to apologize about this thing coming out, and she claimed she was in her car with her kids when I talked to her. It was a 30 second conversation.

For the record, I would never, ever, ever try to kill a story like that. I just wouldn't do that. It's not something I would do, for anybody.
So, here's the thing: Sharon Waxman and Matt Damon can both be right. Indeed, I suspect that they are.

Waxman wrote: "After intense pressure from Weinstein, which included having Matt Damon and Russell Crowe call me directly to vouch for Lombardo and unknown discussions well above my head at the Times, the story was gutted."

She makes it clear, to my reading, that Damon was enlisted by Weinstein as part of his (ultimately successful) pressure campaign to have the story killed.

Indeed, after Damon's statement was published, Waxman herself tweeted her endorsement of it:

That, however, is not the end of the story — at least, it shouldn't be. Because what Damon never gets to in his statement of self-defense is that he was used by Harvey Weinstein to protect him from exposure as a serial sex abuser.

It may well be true that, as he claims, Matt Damon "would never, ever, ever try to kill a story like that." But that's beside the point. Harvey Weinstein would and did —and he used Damon, and his reputation as a decent guy, to try to kill Waxman's story.

"I was never conscripted to do anything," says Damon. Except that he was. He was conscripted to leverage his reputation on behalf of Weinstein, to protect his.

Damon may have been an unwitting accomplice, but he was an accomplice all the same, and he should be furious with Weinstein about that.

He should be absolutely stricken that Weinstein convinced him to do this favor under the false pretenses; that Weinstein exploited their relationship in order to avoid exposure.

If he is, I don't detect it in his statement. In fact, I don't see any evidence that he realizes he was used in that way at all. I see a lot of implied blame directed at Waxman: She should have informed him of the nature of her piece, he insinuates, but Weinstein knew what the piece was about when he asked Damon to call her. Where's the blame for him?

Waxman only picked up the phone and answered when he called at Weinstein's request. She had no responsibility to disclose her angle. The responsibility for full disclosure rests exclusively with Weinstein, who enlisted Damon to try to shut her down specifically because of that angle.

In trying to defend himself, Damon is shielding Weinstein from the accountability for lying and for using him, even if unknowingly, to thwart a woman who was trying to hold him accountable.

He may not have knowingly colluded with Weinstein at the time, but what he's saying right now absolves Weinstein by decentering him. This isn't about Sharon Waxman and what she did or didn't do. It's about Harvey Weinstein — and the fact that he used Matt Damon to ensure he could keep assaulting women with impunity.

Damon needs to be angry about that.

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