John Oliver is not afraid to stand up to a powerful Hollywood playereven in a room of well-heeled socialites at a pricey event on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
Late Monday night, while hosting a Q&A at the 92nd Street Y prior to a 20th-anniversary screening of the Barry Levinson war satire Wag the Dog, the comedian grilled screen legend Dustin Hoffman about the sexual-misconduct allegations against himincluding from Anna Graham Hunter, who claimed that Hoffman groped and sexually harassed her on the set of the 1985 TV movie Death of a Salesman when she was a 17-year-old intern, and TV producer Wendy Riss Gatsiounis, who told Variety that Hoffman sexually propositioned her during a pitch meeting.
This is something were going to have to talk about because its hanging in the air, Oliver told Hoffman during the onstage Q&A, where he was joined by co-star Robert De Niro, Levinson, and the Tribeca Institutes Jane Rosenthal, according to The Washington Post.
Its hanging in the air? Hoffman replied. From a few things youve read youve made an incredible assumption about me Youve made the case better than anyone else can. Im guilty.
At the time of Hunters allegation, Hoffman issued the following statement: 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.
Oliver brought up that apology during the Q&A, telling Hoffman, Youve made one statement in print. Does that feel like enough to you?
First of all, it didnt happen, the way she reported, Hoffman replied.
The Last Week Tonight host then addressed the It is not reflective of who I am portion of Hoffmans public statement, saying, Its that part of the response to this stuff that pisses me off. It is reflective of who you were. Youve given no evidence to show that it didnt happen. There was a period of time when you were a creeper around women. It feels like a cop-out to say, Well, this isnt me. Do you understand how that feels like a dismissal?
You werent there, Hoffman fired back, to which Oliver responded, Im glad.
Youve put me on display here, argued Hoffman. You have indicted me Thats not innocent until proven guilty.
According to reports, Oliver then read from Hunters guest column in The Hollywood Reporter, which led to the following tense exchange between comedian and actor:
Do you believe this stuff you read?Hoffman asked.
Yes, said Oliver. Because theres no point in [Hunter] lying.
Well, theres a point in her not bringing it up for 40 years, Hoffman replied.
Oh Dustin, Oliver shot back.
Those aforementioned Upper East Siders in the audience grew uneasy as the interrogation went on, with one person shouting Move on! while another woman reportedly screamed, Thank you for believing women!
Oliver explained that he brought up the sexual-abuse allegations because were about to watch a movie where sexual harassment is an under-plot and theres an elephant in the room because this conversation is not being had.
Rosenthal then attempted to shift the conversation, replying, It wasnt produced by Weinstein Co. or Miramax, so you dont have a really big conversation. Kevin Spacey wasnt starring in it. Lets look at real sexual criminal predators.
Thats a low bar, said Oliver.
The comic further expanded on his rationale for bringing up the allegations thusly: I cant leave certain things unaddressed. The easy way is not to bring anything up. Unfortunately that leaves me at home later at night hating myself. Why didnt I say something? No one stands up to powerful men.
Am I the powerful man? asked Hoffman, incredulously.