This article was published by Variety.
During opening statements in Harvey Weinstein’s Los Angeles trial, attorneys for the former Hollywood titan told the jury that Weinstein was innocent. His defense stated that the women with whom Weinstein was sexually involved all agreed to “transactional sex,” in exchange for work in the entertainment industry. They took aim at the trial’s most high-profile witness — Jane Doe #4, Jennifer Siebel Newsom — calling her a “bimbo.”
Siebel Newsom has not yet taken the stand, but is expected to testify in the two-month trial. The filmmaker and the First Partner of California, who is married to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, has accused Weinstein of rape in 2005. At the time, she was an up-and-coming actor and filmmaker.
Siebel Newsom’s attorney, Elizabeth Fegan, a founding partner at the Chicago-based law firm FeganScott, is representing two women in Weinstein’s trial. Her other client, Ashley Matthau, testified last month that Weinstein masturbated on her in a hotel room in 2003 when she was working as a dancer in his film, “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.”
Fegan declined to discuss Siebel Newsom’s forthcoming allegations, but she condemns the language used by Weinstein’s defense team to describe her client.
“I thought it was insulting,” says Fegan. “Using adjectives like ‘bimbo’ and other over-the-top words to describe the elements, to me, reflects that Harvey doesn’t have facts to support his defense, so they’re going to try and win based on drama and attacking the victims, as opposed to based on the evidence.”
Fegan — who specializes in representing victims of sexual abuse, harassment, discrimination and fraud, and previously led class action lawsuits against Weinstein and also USC during its campus gynecology scandal — says Weinstein’s trial is crucial, even though he is already imprisoned. (Weinstein is currently serving a 23-year sentence, after being convicted of rape and sexual assault in his 2020 trial in New York; he now faces 11 new charges in Los Angeles.)
On the first day in front of the jury, Weinstein’s defense said that their client is the face of #MeToo movement, essentially becoming the fall guy for an entire cultural reset.
“It’s so narcissistic,” Fegen says. “The #MeToo movement existed before Harvey. I think what the #MeToo movement really was about in 2017 was women being able to finally use their voices as a group. It just so happens that Harvey Weinstein is one of the most prolific abusers in Hollywood, and therefore, of course, there was a groundswell of outpouring from women who were abused by him. But that’s a function of his predatory behavior — not of making him a scapegoat.”
In response to Variety’s request for comment on this interview, Weinstein’s spokesperson, Juda Engelmayer, said: “This may indeed be a narcissistic perspective, but the trial and accusations are not about whether being a narcissist is unlawful or illegal or just disagreeable and distasteful. This is, in fact, about placing today’s values, appreciations and progress on actions of yesterdays that were not then considered criminal, and even may have been more widely accepted practices, ideals and notions. To suggest anything different is just intellectually dishonest. Harvey didn’t invent the culture that existed and may even still exist today.”
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