Victoria’s Secret blasted by models, who sign open letter demanding protection from sexual misconduct in workplace

August 7, 2019

by Daphne Sorenson

Victoria’s Secret models backstage at the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. (Photo by Heidi Gutman/ABC)

More than 100 models and several of their allies (including Models Alliance and Times Up) have signed an open letter to Victoria’s Secret CEO John Mehas to demand an end to the sexual abuse and sexual harassment that has allegedly been running rampant against Victoria’s Secret models.

The letter reads, in part: “In the past few weeks, we have heard numerous allegations of sexual assault, alleged rape, and sex trafficking of models and aspiring models. While these allegations may not have been aimed at Victoria’s Secret directly, it is clear that your company has a crucial role to play in remedying the situation.  From the headlines about L Brands CEO Leslie Wexner’s close friend and associate, Jeffrey Epstein, to the allegations of sexual misconduct by photographers Timur Emek, David Bellemere, and Greg Kadel, it is deeply disturbing that these men appear to have leveraged their working relationships with Victoria’s Secret to lure and abuse vulnerable girls.”

Most of the models who signed the open letter are not very well-known in the industry or are well-known models who are over the age of 30, such as Milla Jovovich, Emme, Doutzen Kroes, and Carolyn Murphy. Noticeably absent from the letter are supermodels who’ve been steadily employed by Victoria’s Secret in recent years, such as Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Behati Prinsloo, Jasmine Tookes, Barbara Palvin and Taylor Hill. Adriana Lima, who retired from Victoria’s Secret runway shows in 2018, was also not on the list of people who signed the letter.

L Brands (based in Columbus, Ohio) is the parent company of Victoria’s Secret.  The letter was published just two days after L Brands chief marketing officer Ed Razek publicly announced he was leaving the company. Wexner and Razek had close ties to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who was arrested again in July 2019, for sex crimes, specifically, for sex trafficking of women and underage girls.

Razek came under fire in 2018, when he said in a Vogue interview that Victoria’s Secret was not interested in hiring plus-sized or transgender models. In August 2019, Victoria’s Secret hired its first transgender model: Valentina Sampaio, who posted the news on her Instagram account.

The open letter blasting Victoria’s Secret is the latest blow to the company, which officially canceled the 2019 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show only a few months after it was announced that the show would not be televised anymore. Victoria’s Secret and its Pink spinoff brand have also been experiencing a sharp decline in sales in recent years.

August 10, 2019 UPDATE: Convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his jail cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City on August 10, 2019. According to the Associated Press, he died in the morning of an apparent suicide by hanging. The Associated Press also reports that although Epstein, who was 66, had been on suicide watch in the weeks leading up to his death, he was not on suicide watch at the time he was found dead. He had been denied bail while waiting to be put on trial on charges of sex-trafficking of underage girls. Of course, Epstein’s sudden death has fueled conspiracy theories that he might have been murdered to prevent him from exposing who his rich and powerful clients were in the sex crimes that Epstein was accused of committing.

R. Kelly scandal: Kelly charged with multiple counts of sexual assault

February 22, 2019

by Colleen McGregor

For the second time in his life, disgraced R&B singer R. Kelly, 52, is facing criminal charges for sex crimes. On February 22, 2019, the Cook County district attorney’s office in Illinois announced that Kelly has been charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving four victims in incidents that took place between 1998 and 2010. According to the Associated Press, three of the alleged victims were minors at the time the alleged abuse occurred. Kelly (whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly) is expected to appear at a bond hearing on February 23, and he will have his first court date on March 8. Kelly’s hometown is Chicago, but he has been living mainly in the Atlanta area for the past several years.

Kelly was arrested for multiple counts of child pornography in 2002. At the center of the trial was a videotape made in 2001 which prosecutors said showed Kelly having sex with a then-14-year-old girl, who was the daughter of one of Kelly’s band members. Kelly, who denied all the charges and said he wasn’t the man in the video, didn’t go on trial until 2008, and he was acquitted of all charges. The female in the sex video refused to testify in the trial, and some of the jurors later said in interviews that they could not convict Kelly without her testimony.

Kelly has admitted to settling numerous lawsuits over the years in which he was accused of sexual abuse,  but he has always denied all claims of sexual abuse against him. The Grammy-winning Kelly is best known for his hits “I Believe I Can Fly,” “Bump N’ Grind” and “Step in the Name of Love.”

Although Kelly seemingly survived the scandal in the years since the trial, the #MeToo and Times Up movements re-ignited protests against Kelly. A grass-roots movement called #MuteRKelly was formed in 2018, and was successful in getting several of Kelly’s concerts canceled and his music banned from some radio stations and streaming services. #MuteRKelly also spearheaded the pressure against Sony Music to cut ties with Kelly.

But the tipping point in the tide against Kelly was the Lifetime docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly,” which aired in January 2019. “Surviving R. Kelly” had interviews with more than 25 people (including his ex-wife Andrea) who either claimed to be victims of harrowing sexual abuse, were related to victims, or were former associates who saw the alleged abuse firsthand. The miniseries reiterated accusations that Kelly is a serial rapist/abuser whose known crimes go as far back as the 1990s, he has an obsession with underage girls, and he is currently abusing women in a “sex cult” environment. After “Surviving R. Kelly” aired and multiple groups staged protests outside of Sony Music’s offices, Sony Music dropped R. Kelly and made it public on January 18, 2019.

UPDATE: Kelly surrendered to authorities in Chicago on February 22, 2019 and pleaded not guilty. He was arrested again on March 6, 2019, for not paying $161,000 in child support to his ex-wife Andrea. Kelly was released on bail after an anonymous donor paid his child support and his bond. Before his arrest for not paying child support, Kelly gave an emotionally unhinged and paranoid interview with CBS News’ Gayle King, in which he shouted that he was innocent of all allegations, and he angrily stated he was the target of a conspiracy.

JULY 16, 2019 UPDATE:  R. Kelly was arrested again for an additional 18 counts, including federal sex-trafficking charges, on July 12, 2019. At a court hearing in Chicago on July 16, 2019, he pleaded not guilty and was ordered to be held without bond.

R. Kelly dropped by Sony Music; his ex-manager arrested for making terroristic threats

January 18, 2019

by Colleen McGregor

After facing immense public backlash, Sony Music has dropped Grammy-winning R&B singer R. Kelly, who has been accused of committing sexual abuse against women and underage girls as far back as the 1990s but has not yet been convicted of any such crimes. Kelly has repeatedly denied all allegations against him. According to Variety, Sony Music had been trying to sever ties with Kelly for several weeks, and made it official on January 18, 2019, when the company removed Kelly from its website. Sony has not yet issued a statement about dropping Kelly or the controversy over Kelly. Sony Music is the parent company of RCA Records, Kelly’s longtime record company. Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, was previously signed to Jive Records, which Sony shuttered in 2011. Jive’s former artists transferred to RCA. Although Kelly will not be releasing new music with RCA/Sony, his back catalog will remain with the record company. His last album with RCA/Sony was “12 Nights of Christmas,” which was released in 2016.

Meanwhile, Henry James Mason, a former manager of R. Kelly, turned himself into authorities on January 18 in Henry County, Georgia, for charges of threatening to kill Timothy Savage, the father of one of Kelly’s alleged victims, as well as threatening to harm members of the Savage family. Mason, who had a warrant out of his arrest since July 2018, has been released on $10,000 bail, according to Variety.

Timothy and JonJelyn Savage in "Surviving R. Kelly"
Timothy and JonJelyn Savage in “Surviving R. Kelly” (Photo courtesy of Lifetime)

Over the years, Kelly, who is 52, has been the subject of numerous stories of abuse against females, particularly underage girls. In 2008, he was acquitted of child pornography charges in which he was accused of videotaping himself having sex with and urinating on a then-14-year-old girl in 2001. Kelly was arrested for the crime in 2002, after the video was leaked to the public and widely bootlegged. The girl who was identified in the video refused to testify in the trial and denied that she was in the video. Complicating matters, the girl’s father worked for R. Kelly as a guitarist in his band before and after the trial. There were several people who knew the girl who testified at the trial, and most of them said that she was the girl in the video. (Her parents did not testify at the trial.) According to what a few of the jurors later told the media after the trial, the lack of testimony from the alleged victim was the main reason why they came to a “not guilty” verdict.

In 1994, Kelly had an illegal marriage to singer Aaliyah, who was 15 at the time they eloped, but who allegedly lied about her age (saying she was 18) at the time of the marriage ceremony. The marriage, which is on public record, was later annulled in 1995.

Sparkle, a former R. Kelly protégée, in “Surviving R. Kelly.” She says her niece was the underage girl in R. Kelly’s notorious sex video that got him arrested for child pornography in 2002. (Photo courtesy of Lifetime)

In 2017, BuzzFeed reported allegations from numerous people who said that Kelly had brainwashed women into becoming his sex slaves and is controlling them like a cult leader. Later that year, when the #MeToo movement became a major social force, a #MuteRKelly activist group was formed to urge cancellations and boycotting of all things related to R. Kelly. #MuteRKelly has been successful in getting several R. Kelly concerts cancelled. The #MuteRKelly movement led to the BBC Three network in the United Kingdom to do two news investigative specials on R. Kelly in 2018. The parents of the alleged victims who are still living with Kelly, as well as women who used to be sexually involved with Kelly, have also given numerous other media interviews.

However, the most influential tipping point in getting Sony Music to drop R. Kelly seems to be the Lifetime docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly,” which aired from January 3 to January 5, 2019, and included harrowing interviews with numerous women, such as his ex-wife Andrea, who say that R. Kelly physically, sexually and emotionally abused them. Most of the women were under the age of 18 when they began their sexual relationships with R. Kelly, and many of them were also interviewed in the BBC Three specials. The women who lived with Kelly said that he was so abusive that he would often starve them, beat them, and force them to engage in degrading sexual acts. Almost all of the women who were in long-term sexual relationships with Kelly said that he would isolate them from their family and friends, and they were afraid to leave him because he threatened their lives. They also said that he had so much control over them that he dictated when they could eat, use the bathroom, and talk to other people.

“Surviving R. Kelly” also included interviews with R. Kelly’s brothers Carey (who spoke out against him) and Bruce Kelly (who is supportive of R. Kelly and is currently in prison for theft and other charges) and R. Kelly’s former protégée Sparkle, who says her underage niece was in the infamous R. Kelly sex video. Other people who were interviewed included several former business associates (who all confirmed that R. Kelly had sexual relationships with underage girls) and some of the parents who claim that their daughters have been Kelly’s sex slaves. The parents say that because their daughters are adults and have apparently been forced to deny that Kelly abused them, it has been difficult to get authorities to intervene and rescue their daughters. However, “Surviving R. Kelly” did document how Michelle Kramer, one of the mothers of the alleged victims, was able to successfully get her daughter out of R. Kelly’s life.

According to Lifetime, “Surviving R. Kelly” had 1.9 million total viewers, making it Lifetime’s highest-rated new show in two years and highest-rated new unscripted show in three years. “Surviving R. Kelly” was executive produced by dream hampton, Tamara Simmons, Joel Karlsberg and Jesse Daniels for Kreativ Inc. which has a production deal with Bunim/Murray Productions (BMP). Brie Miranda Bryant from Lifetime is also one of the executive producers.

R. Kelly Accusers in “Surviving R. Kelly”

In the wake of “Surviving R. Kelly” and the public outcry for justice to be served, artists such as Lady Gaga and Chance the Rapper removed their collaborations with R. Kelly from streaming and online retail sites, made public apologies for associating with R. Kelly, and voiced their support for the survivors. In addition to having numerous hits as a solo artist (including “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Bump ‘N Grind”), Kelly wrote and/or produced hits for several major stars, including Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Jay-Z. Aaliyah, who died in a plane crash in 2001, started out as one of Kelly’s protégées, but parted ways with him after her first album and their marriage debacle.

The pressure against RCA/Sony to drop R. Kelly began to increase on January 11, when women’s group UltraViolet hired a plane flying to fly an anti-R. Kelly banner over Sony’s offices in Culver City, California. The banner read “RCA/Sony: Drop Sexual Predator R. Kelly.” Then on January 16, multiple advocacy groups organized a protest outside of Sony Music’s New York City headquarters and delivered a petition reportedly signed by more than 217,000 people to get the record company to sever ties with Kelly.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson scandal: National Geographic suspends ‘StarTalk’ while investigating sexual harassment allegations against Tyson

January 3, 2019

by Colleen McGregor

The National Geographic Channel (also known as NatGeo) has taken the science-oriented talk show “Star Talk” off the air during its investigation into sexual harassment claims against “StarTalk” host Neil DeGrasse Tyson. According to Variety, two women have gone public with their accusations: “Bucknell University’s Dr. Katelyn N. Allers claimed Tyson groped her at an event in 2009, while a former assistant, Ashley Watson, said Tyson made repeated inappropriate sexual advances toward her.” In addition, musician Tchiya Amet claims that Tyson raped her in the 1980s when they were both graduate students. T

NatGeo, which is owned by Fox, announced in November 2018 that it was investigating the allegations. The fifth season of “StarTalk” aired three episodes, mostly recently on November 26, 2018. A NatGeo rep told Variety: “In order to allow the investigation to occur unimpeded we chose to hold new episodes of ‘StarTalk’ until it is complete. We expect that to happen in the next few weeks at which time we’ll make a final decision.” Tyson is also the host of “Cosmos: Possible Worlds,” which was set to premiere on Fox on March 3, 2019, and on NatGeo on March 4, 2019. The networks have not yet announced if “Cosmos: Possible Worlds” will be televised as planned.

Tyson, who has denied the allegations, is one of numerous celebrities who have had their careers ruined by accusations of sexual harassment during the #MeToo movement that arose during late 2017, when once-powerful public figures in media and entertainment (such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Russell Simmons, Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer) lost their jobs after their alleged sexual misconduct acts that spanned decades were exposed by the news media. Weinstein is the only one who has been arrested for sexual assault (he is pleading not guilty), and Spacey is expected to be arrested and charged with sexual assault sometime in January 2019.

In a statement on his Facebook account, Tyson commented: “In any claim, evidence matters. Evidence always matters. But what happens when it’s just one person’s word against another’s, and the stories don’t agree? That’s when people tend to pass judgment on who is more credible than whom. And that’s when an impartial investigation can best serve the truth – and would have my full cooperation to do so.”

Les Moonves scandal: Longtime TV executive resigns as CBS Corp. chairman/CEO after sexual assault allegations; wife Julie Chen’s CBS tenure might also end

September 10, 2018

by Colleen McGregor

Longtime TV executive Les Moonves, 68, has exited his position as CBS Corp. chairman/CEO in a cloud of scandal, after The New Yorker published allegations from six women who claimed that he sexually assaulted them by violently forcing them to give him oral sex or sexually harassed them by ruining their careers after they refused his sexual advances. Moonves abruptly resigned after the story was published on September 9, 2018.

The allegations came after six other women accused him of the same misdeeds in the same time period (1980s to early 2000s) in a New Yorker article published in July. At the time, Moonves admitted that he made sexual advances to some of the women, but denied that he forced himself on anyone or retaliated if they refused his advances. The CBS board then voted to keep Moonves in his job while CBS would investigate the allegations. However, the additional number of accusers and the detailed stories that surfaced two months later were apparently too much, and Moonves (who was reportedly negotiating his exit package after the first wave of accusations were made public) stepped down and released this statement:

“For the past 24 years it has been an incredible privilege to lead CBS’s renaissance and transformation into a leading global media company. The best part of this journey has been working alongside the dedicated and talented people in this company. Together, we built CBS into a destination where the best in the business come to work and succeed. Untrue allegations from decades ago are now being made against me that are not consistent with who I am.  Effective immediately I will no longer be Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CBS. I am deeply saddened to be leaving the company. I wish nothing but the best for the organization, the newly comprised board of directors and all of its employees.”

Les Moonves
Les Moonves at the CBS Upfronts in New York City in 2017 (Photo by Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS)

CBS announced that it would donate $20 million of Moonves’ salary to the Time’s Up movement that is aimed at assisting victims of sexual harassment and assault. However, when it was reported that the $20 million would be deducted from an approximate $100 million severance package that Moonves was reportedly getting, it sparked outrage on social media from people who think Moonves should not be receiving any severance pay. More outrage ensued when CBS said it would not release the outcome of the investigation conducted by two law firms hired by CBS to look into the accusations against Moonves.

The irony is that in December 2017, Moonves co-founded the Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, which is chaired by Anita Hill.

Julie Chen, Moonves’ second wife whom he married in 2004 after a messy divorce from first wife Nancy, issued a statement after the accusations surfaced in July by saying that her husband was a “moral” man and that she stood by him. Chen and Moonves got romantically involved and openly dated while he was married to his first wife.

Chen, 48, is a co-host of CBS daytime talk show “The Talk” and the host of CBS reality show “Big Brother.” She was absent from “The Talk” on September 10, issuing that statement that she was taking time off to spend with her family. Chen and Moonves’ son Charlie was born in 2009. Moonves has three adult children from his first marriage.

Now that her husband has left his powerful position at CBS under scandalous circumstances, it might be a matter of time before Chen will leave CBS, regardless if the marriage ends in divorce or not. Chen’s career was so inextricably tied to Moonves and his position of power that it might be difficult for her to find work on a similar level at another network.

September 18, 2018 UPDATE: As expected, Chen did not return to “The Talk,” and officially resigned from the show in a videotaped message that aired on the show on September 18. In the message, Chen said that she was leaving “The Talk” to spend time with her husband and their son Charlie. She briefly got tearful during her statement, and she thanked her co-hosts and the rest of “The Talk” team for the time that she spent with them. Chen had been a co-host of “The Talk” since its 2010 debut. The search is on to find the person who will replace Chen on the show. “Dancing With the Stars” judge Carrie Ann Inaba, who has been filling in as a substitute, is considered a frontrunner for the job. Meanwhile, Chen will probably exit CBS once she her contract ends as host of “Big Brother.”

Chris Hardwick re-instated at AMC after sexual-abuse investigation

July 25, 2018

by Colleen McGregor

Chris Hardwick (Photo by Virginia Sherwood/NBC)
Chris Hardwick (Photo by Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

Chris Hardwick is returning to hosting duties at AMC after being suspended while the network conducted an investigation into allegations that he sexually abused his ex-girlfriend Chloe Dkystra. AMC has announced that Hardwick will return as host of “Talking Dead” on August 12, 2018.

On June 14, 2018, actress/model Dykstra posted an essay on Medium claiming that an unnamed ex-boyfriend (who was obviously Hardwick) inflicted sexual and verbal abuse on her during their relationship. Dykstra and Hardwick dated from 2011 to 2014. Hardwick, 47, denied the allegations, but AMC suspended him and his talk show “Talking With Chris Hardwick” (which had been scheduled to premiere that month) while conducting the investigation. In the aftermath of the allegations, Hardwick had his scheduled appearances (including moderating AMC panels) cancelled  at Comic-Con International in San Diego and the San Diego Music-Comedy Festival. After Dykstra (who is 29) made her accusations, Hardwick’s wife Lydia Hearst and his ex-girlfriends Jacinda Barrett, Janet Varney and Andrea Savage all made statements to publicly support him and declare that Hardwick is not abusive.

AMC issued this statement: “Following a comprehensive assessment by AMC, working with Ivy Kagan Bierman of the firm Loeb & Loeb, who has considerable experience in this area, Chris Hardwick will return to AMC as the host of ‘Talking Dead’ and ‘Talking with Chris Hardwick.’ We take these matters very seriously and given the information available to us after a very careful review, including interviews with numerous individuals, we believe returning Chris to work is the appropriate step.”

Actress/comedian Yvette Nicole Brown, a frequent “Talking Dead” guest, replaced Hardwick at Comic-Con as moderator of the AMC panels that he would normally moderate. She will be a guest host of “Talking Dead” when the show returns on Aug. 5, 2018.

Hardwick also hosts the NBC game show “The Wall.” NBC said it would investigate Dysktra’s allegations, and has made no further comment. It appears that NBC will keep him as host of “The Wall.”

Harvey Weinstein arrested for sex crimes, released on $1 million bail

May 25, 2018

by Colleen McGregor

Harvey Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein at The Weinstein Company party in celebration of “Wind River” at Nikki Beach in Cannes, Frances, on May 20, 2017. (Photo by Dave Benett)

On May 25, 2018, disgraced entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein turned himself into the New York Police Department, where he was arrested and charged with rape and forced oral sex. According to the Associated Press, the rape charge is for an unidentified woman who claims that Weinstein raped her at a New York hotel room in 2013. The oral sex charge is for a 2004 incident in which former aspiring actress Lucia Evans claims that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him at his New York office. During his arraignment, he pled not guilty and was released on $1 million bail, with constant electronic monitoring and a ban on traveling beyond New York and Connecticut. Weinstein’s attorney Benjamin Brafman says that Weinstein will seek to have the charges dismissed.

In October 2017, the New York Times and the New Yorker reported that Weinstein has a long history of sexual misconduct allegations (going back as far as the 1980s), and that he silenced many of his alleged victims with financial settlements and non-disclosure agreements.  In the months since those reports were published, more than 80 women have come forward to claim that Weinstein sexually harassed or sexually assaulted them. Weinstein has denied all the allegations, and says any sex acts he committed were consensual.

After the reports were published, Weinstein was fired by The Weinstein Company (the entertainment firm that Harvey co-founded with his brother Bob); Harvey’s second wife, Georgina Chapman, divorced him; and the company filed for bankruptcy. The Weinstein Company has since been purchased by an investment group and is expected to change its name.  Several industry organizations (including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) have expelled Harvey Weinstein from their membership, and he has been sued by several women for sexual harassment/sexual misconduct. Ashley Judd, one of his accusers, is also suing him for defamation because she claims Harvey Weinstein damaged her reputation and career after she rejected his sexual advances.

Harvey Weinstein’s downfall is widely considered to be the turning point of the #MeToo cultural movement, which has survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault publicly telling their stories and seeking justice. The #MeToo movement has also led to sexual misconduct allegations against many other famous and powerful men, often resulting in the accused losing their jobs and/or being sued.

October 11, 2018 UPDATE: The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has dismissed the sexual assault charge against Weinstein in the Evans case. According to CNN, Evans’ attorney Carrie Goldberg implied that the charge was dropped for political reasons because of a “feud between the NYPD and the DA’s office.” Goldberg added that the dropped charge “does speak to a system desperate in need of reform.” Weinstein still faces five charges for sex-related crimes.

Mario Batali, Ken Friedman accused of sexual assault; police investigations are underway

May 21, 2018

by Colleen McGregor

Mario Batali
Mario Batali (Photo by Lou Rocco/ABC)

New York-based celebrity restaurateurs Mario Batali and Ken Friedman have been accused of sexual assault, and Batali is under criminal investigation for it, according to the CBS News program “60 Minutes.” The program televised a bombshell report on May 20, 2018, alleging that Batali committed sex crimes and sexual harassment over the course of many years. The “60 Minutes” report featured interviews with several former employees of The Spotted Pig, a New York City restaurant co-owned by Friedman and frequented by Batali. Although many of the accusers’ claims were first reported by the New York Times in December 2017, the “60 Minutes” report includes new details about Batali’s alleged sexual assault against one of his former employees.

The accuser, who wished to remain anonymous,  claims that Batali sexually assaulted her at The Spotted Pig in 2005, when she used to work for him at Batali’s restaurant Babbo. She says Batali invited her to The Spotted Pig, and she believes she was drugged without her knowledge and consent because she vomited and felt disoriented before passing out. She alleges that before she passed out, she remembered Batali kissing her. The former Babbo employee woke up to injuries on her body, knowing that something sexual had happened to her without her consent because she found semen stains on her skirt. She says that when she confronted Batali about the alleged assault, he said nothing. Although the accuser says she went to police and even had a rape-kit test done on her, she ultimately decided not to file a police report against Batali, out of fear of retaliation and because she feared there wasn’t enough proof that any sexual acts he may have committed were without her consent. (On a semi-related note, Babbo fired executive chef Frank Langello in January 2018, after he was accused of sexual misconduct, according to the restaurant-industry website Eater. Langello had worked at Babbo for more than 17 years.)

Another woman, who also wants to remain anonymous, is claiming that Batali drugged and raped her at Babbo in 2004. The New York Times reports that the New York Police Department is also investigating this accusation against Batali.

Batali is denying the claims of sexual assault, but in December 2017, he acknowledged and made a public apology for sexually inappropriate conduct against many of his female employees and colleagues. The apology came when Eater published an article exposing Batali’s alleged misdeeds. He was subsequently fired as a co-host of ABC’s “The Chew,” and he announced that he was stepping away from his businesses. Friedman did the same thing around the same time: He made a public apology for his behavior, and he stepped down from his businesses; he is denying that he committed any non-consensual sex acts.

A subsequent report published by Eater  in December 2017 detailed allegations of rampant sexual misconduct at restaurants owned by Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, the company co-founded by Batali, Joe Bastianich and Joe’s mother Lidia Bastianich. Joe Bastianich (who is a judge on Fox’s “MasterChef”) was named by several former anonymous employees as a deliberate enabler/participant in the sexually abusive behavior, which accusers claim was happening for about 20 years.

After the “60 Minutes” report aired, Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group (which owns 28 restaurants worldwide) issued a statement saying that it is in the process of ending the company’s involvement with Batali.

Here is Batali’s statement to “60 Minutes” about the claim that he sexually assaulted a Babbo employee in 2005 while she was unconscious: “I vehemently deny the allegation that I sexually assaulted this woman. My past behavior has been deeply inappropriate and I am sincerely remorseful for my actions. I am not attempting a professional comeback. My only focus is finding a personal path forward—a path where I can continue my charitable endeavors—helping the underprivileged and those in need.”

The former Spotted Pig employees who told their stories to “60 Minutes” did not remain anonymous. They include former waitresses Trish Nelson, Carla Rza Betts and Natalie Saibel, as well as former manager Jamie Seet and former bartender Erin Fein. They all said that Batali and/or Friedman frequently harassed them physically and verbally. Seet claims that she witnessed Batali sexually assaulting a woman by putting his hands in or on her genital area while she seemed to be unconscious. This alleged assault was caught on surveillance video, and Seet claims that she and other Spotted Pig employees saw the video, but they did not report it to the police. This was a story she also told to the New York Times. Fein claims that Friedman groped and kissed her without her consent while they were in his car in 2014, and then ordered her not to tell anyone. Nelson also claims that Friedman did the same thing to her.

As for why the accusers did not file formal complaints, they all said that it was common knowledge that Batali’s and Friedman’s power in the close-knit restaurant industry meant that the two men could destroy the careers of anyone who spoke out against them. And if any incidents of harassment or abuse were reported to supervisors at The Spotted Pig, former employees say that nothing was done about the problem, because Friedman was one of the alleged perpetrators. For example, Seet told “60 Minutes” that Batali had grabbed her breasts while she was on the job, but when she told Friedman about it, he laughed and dismissed her concerns. According to “60 Minutes,” The Spotted Pig, which opened in 2004, did not have a human resources department until 2017.

Seet also claimed that Friedman “blacklisted” her when she tried to find a job at another restaurant. In one example, she says that she had a job offer rescinded, and was told that she wasn’t hired for the job because of Friedman. All the accusers say that rampant sexual harassment isn’t just a problem for The Spotted Pig and the restaurant industry but for society as a whole, especially in places where there are very few women in power.

But even having a woman in power doesn’t guarantee a safe working environment. April Bloomfield, The Spotted Pig chef who co-founded the restaurant with Friedman, issued a statement to “60 Minutes” saying that she regrets not doing more to protect her employees, and that she is in the process of ending her partnership with Friedman.

Dozens of famous and powerful men have been accused of sexual misconduct since the #MeToo movement became a major cultural force in late 2017. Many of the accused have lost their jobs and have been sued in civil cases, but criminal cases against them have been rare, since the required burden of proof is much larger in order for a criminal case to make it to court. Entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons are all reportedly under criminal investigations for sex crimes, and it remains to be seen what the outcomes of those investigations will be.*

Disgraced actor/comedian Bill Cosby is the only celebrity in several years who has been convicted of a felony sex crime. His conviction, which took place in April 2018, was for the 2004 rape of Andrea Constand, a former employee of Temple University’s women’s basketball team.

*May 25, 2018 UPDATE: Harvey Weinstein was arrested for felony sexual assault in New York City. He has pled not guilty.

Bill Cosby found guilty of sexual assault

April 26, 2018

by Colleen McGregor

Bill Cosby
Bill Cosby at the 2014 American Comedy Awards in New York City (Photo courtesy of NBC)

A jury in Norristown, Pennsylvania, has found comedian/actor Bill Cosby guilty of three counts of sexual assault on April 26, 2018. Cosby had been on trial for the crime, in which he was accused of drugging and raping Andrea Constand at his Philadelphia-area home in 2004. Constand, a native of Toronto, was director of operations for Temple University women’s basketball team at the time. Cosby received a bachelor’s degree from Temple in 1971. He was a major donor to Temple and on Temple’s board of trustees for many years until his fall from grace.

According to the Chicago Tribune: “Cosby stared straight ahead as the verdict was read, but moments later lashed out loudly at District Attorney Kevin Steele and called him an ‘a–hole’ after the prosecutor asked that Cosby be immediately jailed because he might flee. Cosby denied he has an airplane and shouted, ‘I’m sick of him!'”

Cosby (who is 80 years old) will remain out on bond until his sentencing. His wife Camille (who’s been married to Cosby since 1964) and their three surviving children were not present in the courtroom when the verdict was read. His legal team will almost certainly appeal the verdict.

In 2005, a year after Cosby raped Constand, she reported the crime to the police. However, Cosby was not arrested at that time. Bruce Castor, who was Montgomery Country’s district attorney in Pennsylvania at the time, declined to bring a case against Cosby. Constand then filed a civil lawsuit against Cosby. The lawsuit was settled out of court, with Constand reportedly getting a $3.4 million settlement. In depositions for the lawsuit that weren’t made public until 2016, Cosby admitted to giving drugs to several women, including Constand, before he had sex with them, but he contended that the sex was always consensual. Although the lawsuit made news in 2005, it barely had an effect on Cosby’s career for many years.

That all changed in 2014, when video footage from a Hannibal Buress stand-up comedy show went viral. During one part of the stand-up show, Buress went on a rant against Cosby by calling Cosby a hypocrite who likes to “rape women.” The viral video opened a floodgate of accusations from more than 60 women who claimed that Cosby raped them after he drugged them without their knowledge or consent. Almost all of the women said that Cosby lured them into these situations by offering to mentor them or help them with their careers.

Almost all of the alleged incidents occurred in the 1960s to 1990s—too many years ago for any of the alleged victims to have Cosby arrested for these alleged crimes, since the statute of limitations had run out. In addition, the women said they were alone with Cosby when these alleged rapes happened, so even if some of the women told other people about these alleged rapes at the time (and many of them did), the accusations were hard to prove. In some cases, the accusers said that they told police, attorneys and/or Cosby colleagues about these alleged crimes, but none of the authorities they confided in wanted to hold Cosby accountable because of his immense power and fame. Some of the accusers now have pending lawsuits against Cosby. He has countersued a few of the accusers, but those countersuits will probably be dropped now that Cosby has been found guilty of sexual assault and is going to prison.

Cosby has maintained his innocence throughout the controversy. His accusers have faced criticism for either not coming forward sooner and, in some cases, continuing to be in contact with Cosby after they were allegedly raped by him.  Critics of the accusers have called them “gold diggers,” “liars” and “opportunists.” Meanwhile, after the flood of accusations came to light, NBC and Netflix cancelled projects that they had in the works with Cosby. However, he continued to perform stand-up concerts, even though some of his performances were also cancelled because of the controversy. Many universities and institutions (including Temple) also rescinded any honors that they had bestowed on Cosby.

In 2016, a new district attorney (Kevin Steele) took a look at the Constand/Cosby case and decided to file charges against Cosby before the statute of limitations ran out. He was arrested, and the case went to trial in 2017, but ended in a hung jury.

The 2018 retrial, unlike the 2017 trial, allowed the testimony of five other alleged Cosby victims, including former supermodel Janice Dickinson. The added testimony seems to have made a huge difference in the jury’s verdict. In media interviews done after Cosby’s guilty verdict, many of his accusers said that the #MeToo movement also probably made a difference in the trial’s outcome.

For decades, Cosby was revered as a role model not just for Americans but for many people around the world. In his stand-up comedy routines, books, TV commercials, public appearances and in starring roles on TV series like “The Cosby Show,” he had the image of a friendly, upstanding, fatherly figure with a strong moral code of ethics.

He also broke race barriers in television. Cosby was the first African-American to star in a prime-time TV series when he co-starred with Robert Culp in “I Spy,” which NBC televised from 1965 to 1968. In addition to having a successful career in TV and stand-up comedy (he had five Emmys and nine Grammys), Cosby starred in several movies, including 1974’s “Uptown Saturday Night” and 1978’s “California Suite.” His last movie was 2004’s “Fat Albert,” which was based on Cosby’s popular “Fat Albert” animated TV series.

Now that he is a convicted rapist, Cosby will be a registered sex offender and spend time in prison. This article will be updated after Cosby is sentenced.


Danny Masterson scandal: Netflix fires him from ‘The Ranch’ after he’s accused of rape

December 5, 2017

by Colleen McGregor

Danny Masterson
Danny Masterson (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

Netflix has announced that it has fired actor Danny Masterson from its comedy TV series “The Ranch,” after four women have come forward with claims that Masterson raped them in the early 2000s, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “The Ranch,” which premiered in 2016, is set to begin airing the second half of its second season on December 15, 2017. The show is about a dysfunctional family that owns a ranch in Colorado. The cast includes Ashton Kutcher, Debra Winger and Sam Elliott.

Masterson is best known for co-starring with Kutcher in the sitcom “That ’70s  Show,” which was on the air from 1998 to 2006. In the U.S., “That ’70s Show” aired on Fox. Masterson has denied all the rape allegations, and issued a statement saying that he was “disappointed” in Netflix’s decision to fire him from “The Ranch.”

Netflix’s firing of Masterson comes a little over a month after the streaming network did the same thing to “House of Cards” star/executive producer Kevin Spacey after numerous men (including “House of Cards” employees) came forward in October 2017 to claim that Spacey sexually harassed or sexually assaulted them. Spacey allegedly committed sexual harassment against males over several decades, according to published reports. Spacey issued a public apology to actor Anthony Rapp, who claimed in an October 2017 article published by BuzzFeed that Spacey tried to have sex with him in 1986, when Rapp was 14 and Spacey was 26. Spacey has not publicly commented on the other allegations, but said that he is taking time off from his career to seek treatment. Spacey has since been removed from the Columbia Pictures drama “All the Money in the World” and replaced by Christopher Plummer.

In late 2017, other actors who have lost TV shows, movies or other business deals after being accused of sexual misconduct include Louis C.K., Ed Westwick, Jeremy Piven and Jeffrey Tambor. Prominent TV journalists Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose and Mark Halperin have also had disgraceful exits from their jobs after numerous women accused them of sexual harassment going back several years. An even larger number of high-ranking executives who work behind the scenes at various entertainment and media companies have been fired, placed on leave or have resigned in late 2017 after being accused of sexual misconduct by several people. The companies with these major shake-ups include Amazon Studios, DC Comics, Def Jam, National Public Radio, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Rush Communications, Vox Media, Warner Bros. Television and The Weinstein Company.

Although people being fired for sexual misconduct is nothing new, this unprecedented tidal wave of accusations and scandalous ousters in the entertainment industry seems to have been triggered by entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein’s massive fall from grace in early October 2017, when numerous women went public with stories that he sexually harassed or sexually assaulted them. As of this writing, more than 60 women have come forward with sexual misconduct stories about Weinstein, with the stories spanning various years over several decades, going as far back as the 1970s.


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