A month ago, Dustin Hoffman was accused of sexually harassing a 17-year-old intern while on the set of the 1985 film version of Death of a Salesman. The former intern, Anna Graham Hunter, wrote a personal essay about his alleged behavior, which included lewd, demeaning comments and repeated groping. Then, producer Wendy Riss Gatsiounis came forward with similar allegations stemming from her interactions with Hoffman in 1991.
And that was kind of the end of it. Hoffman made a vague, bland apology that didn’t admit any specific wrongdoing, and then laid low. And the news cycle, overburdened as it was with other stories of sexual misconduct in politics and Hollywood, moved on.
Now, John Oliver has done what the rest of the news cycle couldn’t or wouldn’t: interrogate Hoffman directly. The Washington Post reports that Oliver was presenting a panel for the 20th anniversary of Barry Levinson’s film Wag the Dog, and felt the need to address the allegations because they were the “elephant in the room.”
The discussion of the harassment began about halfway into the hourlong panel. Oliver said it had to be addressed because it was “hanging in the air,” to which Hoffman replied sarcastically, implying he did not feel the need to discuss it: “It’s hanging in the air?” He continued, “From a few things you’ve read you’ve made an incredible assumption about me,” before adding, “You’ve made the case better than anyone else can. I’m guilty.”
Oliver brought up that nonspecific apology of Hoffman’s, highlighting how he never truly addressed the problem. Per WaPo:
“It’s ‘not reflective of who I am’—it’s that kind of response to this stuff that pisses me off,” Oliver said. “It is reflective of who you were. If you’ve given no evidence to show it didn’t [happen] then there was a period of time for a while when you were a creeper around women. It feels like a cop-out to say ‘it wasn’t me.’ Do you understand how that feels like a dismissal?”
Hoffman grew increasingly agitated in the exchange, and Oliver eventually let it drop and the discussion appeared to move on. But it was Hoffman who brought it up again, dropping a testy remark that Oliver didn’t keep an “open mind.” That led to a telling exchange in which Oliver said he believed Hoffman’s accusers because there’s no point in them lying, to which Hoffman said there’s a point in bringing up an allegation 40 years later. Oliver reacted to this with disgust, putting his head in his hands. as he recognized that age-old maxim of the harasser: These people are only coming forward because they want fame or fortune, or to discredit me.
At this point, the audience of the panel was divided. Some called for the panel to move forward. Others shouted out support for Oliver. The discussion had a wide range, including Hoffman saying he did not remember Anna Graham Hunter (there are photos of them together), and Oliver explaining that if he had said nothing at the panel he wouldn’t have been able to sleep.
Hoffman remained defiant throughout the panel, repeatedly implying that people who believed his accusers weren’t keeping an open mind. Oliver just grew more and more disappointed. In the end, Hoffman was reduced to lamely saying that Oliver couldn’t know the situation, because he wasn’t there. Said Oliver: “I’m glad.”