Sky News just released exclusive video of Harvey Weinstein making sexually suggestive comments and inappropriately touching a then 28-year-old Melissa Thompson during a business meeting between the two. Thompson is one of the women who has accused Weinstein of rape, which allegedly occurred the same day.
The meeting took place in 2011 at The Weinstein Company Offices in New York. Thompson was pitching her tech start-up company’s new video and analytics service to Weinstein, Thompson told a Sky News reporter as they watched the video together.
Thompson turned on her computer’s camera to film the pitch. She had expected a meeting with the marketing team, but instead, Weinstein arrived solo and asked staff to leave them alone and not to interrupt. He then locks the door.
Next, in the video, Thompson is seen reaching out her hand for a handshake, but Weinstein embraces her in a hug and runs his hands up and down her back while murmuring, “that’s nice, let’s keep it up.”
Immediately after the hug, Weinstein says to Thompson, “So, am I allowed to flirt with you?”
Thompson appears caught off guard and responds, “Ummm… we’ll see, a little bit.”
Weinstein responds, “A little bit, not much? OK, then alright I won’t. So whatta ya want?”
Thompson then says, “No, it’s ok.” The two move on to business matters.
What follows after that is a series of interactions where Weinstein would make a sexually suggestive comment or run his hand up her dress under the table and Thompson would either play along or de-escalate the situation.
Talking to Sky News, Thompson says, “Now I see he’s trying, in any way he can, to move me into that zone of comfortable then uncomfortable and confused, and vulnerable, and recognising that he’s powerful and I’m not, and that I need this deal from him, and he has the power to give it to me.
“I think (he) was playing a cat-and-mouse game from the very beginning to see how far he could push me, and what my reactions might be, so that he could gauge… how he would play me; where my levers where, what were my vulnerabilities.”
Weinstein’s team has claimed the video shows awkward but consensual flirting and nothing more. Given Weinstein’s response, the Sky News reporter asks Thompson, “Do you think you encouraged him?”
“I don’t think I purposefully encouraged him, at first to… you know volley a little bit with him. If he would make a comment, I would try to catch it and return it in a way that felt a little safer then the way he threw it at me.”
At times Thompson appeared caught off-guard and other times she played along with Weinstein. Weinstein had the deal she was seeking and the power. Thompson was playing a game that many play in such power dynamics.
Closing the deal for Thompson depended on Weinstein liking her and thus, to flatly refuse his advances was likely not an option for Thompson. She needed him to like her, and she knew by his repeated sexual references and advances that liking her was dependent on her sexuality in his eyes. If Weinstein didn’t have that power, she likely would have walked out of the room.
Sealing the deal meant keeping her sexuality on the table, but as she tells Sky News, she tried to control the situation.
“I was trying to save face a bit. At first, I was trying to kind of manage the situation. There was a combination of confidence and naivete that led me to this dynamic that we see now,” Thompson says.
“I didn’t want to blow the meeting.
“I worked in Wall Street before I went to business school, and I worked in an environment that was heavily male-dominated… I thought I could handle it, I had never met anyone that I couldn’t handle… until Harvey Weinstein,” she added.
Did Thompson lead Weinstein on? Many will say yes, and many will say no. But it doesn’t really matter because the purpose of the video is not to establish whether a crime took place. The crime took place hours later that day when Weinstein allegedly raped her in a hotel.
At the end of the meeting, Weinstein invites her to meet him for a drink at the Tribeca Grand Hotel lobby restaurant. Thompson says yes.
Telling Sky News about her train of thinking she says she thought it was to close the deal.
“It wasn’t at 10 p.m., it wasn’t an invitation to go to his hotel room, it was an invitation to come to a hotel lobby that was within blocks of the office and so that to me felt much safer than being alone with him in his office,” she explains.
But when he came to the lobby, he told her to follow him. She thought she was following him to a conference room, but he led her to his hotel room where she says he then raped her.
“If I would try to fight myself away from him, he would then move around to a place where he could block me in. I constantly felt trapped, no matter where I turned. He corned me, over and over again.”
While the video doesn’t show an act of crime or prove that Weinstein raped her in the hotel room, what it does show is behavior typical of a sexual predator. A sexual predator is someone who pursues sexual contact in a metaphorically predatory or abusive manner, whether by manipulation, physical force, drugs, extortion or any other unwelcome means.
The video shows how Weinstein works, the game he played and how he likely interacted with dozens of women over the years.
Maybe some of those women went into a room with him and willfully made a choice to swap sexual favors for a business deal – although how willful is a choice that has the potential to end your career?
But many women have said that Weinstein did cross the line and harassed or sexually assaulted them in some form.
The video shows a man using his power to push boundaries and play a game to get what he wants, sex with a particular woman. Did he push that boundary too far with one of his accusers?