Michael Douglas has admitted to sexual harassment in the past — but no one has accused him of it yet
As scores of powerful Hollywood men have been called out for sexual misconduct these past few months, we’ve seen a spectrum of responses from the accused. But in the case of Michael Douglas, he’s going to the press himself before allegations he claims are mostly false even hit newsstands.
Douglas reached out to Deadline about potential allegations after he says his lawyer was contacted by reporters at The Hollywood Reporter. The reporters had been in touch with a woman Douglas worked with more than 30 years ago who claims the actor used inappropriate language in front of her, blackballed her in the industry, and — most damningly — masturbated in front of her when she worked for him. Douglas was told the story is set to run soon.
While Michael Douglas says he’ll admit to the bad language, and apologizes for it, he insists he didn’t blackball her.
And he vehemently insists he never masturbated in front of her:
"The accusations are minimal, except of course for the idea of masturbating in front of her. She supposedly had three friends who would back her up, that she had mentioned this to. I pride myself of being so supportive of the women’s movement. My mother was an actress, and I myself married to an actress and have been supportive of this movement wholeheartedly, through all my years."
"I was forced to look over my past. I’ve had up to 20 female executives who worked at my company in different areas over the years. Over 20 producers I partnered with on pictures have been women. Not to mention all the actresses I’ve worked with and the hundreds of performers. How am I, in a 50 year career in this industry, dealing with an employee 33 years ago who perhaps is disgruntled that I let her go, even though I have never heard from her in 32 years. And a legitimate trade publication is going to try and print this story? There is no corroboration, just that they found out somebody else might run the story."
Douglas goes on to speculate that maybe his accuser — who he says he remembers as being “sophisticated,” “intelligent,” and having a “good sense of humor” — is coming forward with these claims in order to secure a book deal. He mentions being concerned for how this will affect his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones (who appeared on stage at the 2018 Golden Globes alongside Douglas’ father, Kirk), and their children.
He also says he decided to comment before the potential story goes public so he can tell his version of events.
"I had the choice of waiting for a story to come out, one that will clearly get picked up by other newspapers and magazines, and then I have to sit there and try to defend myself. Or, try to share with the public, a little ahead of the story, my thoughts and concerns."
He added, "I support the #metoo movement with all my heart. I have always supported women, along the way. This is the kind of step that can set that movement back. Being accused, without a chance [to defend yourself] in court. To not even really have the information in front of you, to be able to argue or defend yourself. There is no due process, no chance of seeing evidence in front of me from my accuser. It worries me."
Douglas’ comments are rare, in that many have addressed sexual misconduct once accusations had been made against them.
For context: Some, like Louis C.K. and Matt Lauer, admitted they committed the acts that the media has reported. Some, like Kevin Spacey, tried to shift the story to be about something else (i.e. his terribly-timed coming out tweet). Some, like James Franco, have gone on late night talk shows to address the allegations. Some, like Harvey Weinstein, said their recollection of events is different than that of the accuser. Some, like T.J. Miller, released joint statements with their wives claiming their innocence. Some, like Ed Westwick, denied knowing their accuser at all.
Back to Michael Douglas’ comments specifically: Douglas’ worries have been echoed in various forms by powerful men in recent weeks, but expressing them — particularly with cliches like “she just wants a book deal” — can also be treacherous because it puts victims’ stories into doubt. Navigating this new frontier of truth is sometimes like walking a tightrope. We just hope that as details continue to emerge, justice is able to keep its footing.