On Thursday’s Good Morning America, Ashley Judd sat down with Diane Sawyer for her first televised interview about her allegations that Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed her. (Judd was one of the women whose stories was detailed in the original New York Times article about Weinstein which blew the lid off the whole situation.)
In the GMA interview, Judd recounted the story of how Weinstein lured her to a hotel when she was a young actress and what exactly was going through her head as she escaped.
But of course, Weinstein himself found a way to attempt to wrest control of Judd’s (and many other women’s) narrative. Toward the end of the segment, Sawyer showed Judd a photo of her and Weinstein from a Vanity Fair Oscar party. He’s holding her hand and they’re both wearing smiles. As if that exonerated him. Sawyer said that Weinstein’s team had sent the picture to ABC News.
For Weinstein to release a photo of him smiling with one of his accusers as his defense is a particularly disgusting attempt to discredit them. It implies that, because they consented to a paparazzi photo at a high-profile event that they must have consented to his inappropriate behavior. Or that they had moved past it by that time and were friends. It’s a disgusting flex of power on Weinstein’s part—but it’s also kind of pathetic seeing as he doesn’t have much power to flex right now.
Seeing the photos, it’s almost impossible to see this maneuver and not think back to the audio footage of Weinstein chastising model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez for “making a scene” when she resisted his attempts to coerce her into his hotel room. Photos of Judd or Gwyneth Paltrow or other accusers seem to mostly be taken at big Hollywood parties, where they’re not exactly about to “make a scene.”
Of course it should be noted that this tactic of using photos with Weinstein’s victims was outlined by Weinstein’s former attorney Lisa Bloom in a leaked email in an attempt to quell the Weinstein Company’s board of directors. In the email, Bloom downplayed the New York Times story and outlined a plan of attack: “Tomorrow there will be more and different reporting, highlighting inaccuracies, including photos of several of the accusers in very friendly poses with Harvey after his alleged misconduct.” (Bloom has since said that she was merely guessing what she thought would happen next in the news cycle, not planning out a strategy—though reports out today that she also tried to smear specific actresses would seem to undermine that claim.)
Judd responded to Weinstein’s picture with another taken at almost the same moment—one that she said tells a different story and shows what she described as “abject terror” in her eyes.