Comedian John Oliver confronted Oscar-winning actor Dustin Hoffman on stage about a sexual harassment accusation, offering an audience in NY on Monday a rare glimpse of a powerful man facing live questions about such an allegation. It was tense, it was infuriating, and it was extremely gratifying to watch.
The duo was a part of a panel at the screening of the political drama Wag the Dog when Oliver questioned Hoffman about recent accusations levelled against him by author Anna Graham Hunter, when she was a minor while working as a production assistant on the 1985 TV film Death of a Salesman.
Hoffman fought back against the accusations with a statement in which he stated: "I have great respect for women and I feel bad that anything I have done has put her in an uncomfortable situation".
Oliver raised Hoffman's statement that it was "not reflective of who I am". The Washington Post was there to cover the unexpected confrontation. The 6 minute, 14-second video has been edited down from what Zeitchik says was an approximately half-hour long discussion.
As Hoffman whined about feeling blindsided and continued to insist that the behavior in question - if it happened at all - wasn't "reflective of who [he is] today", Oliver refused to let him squirm away from the hard truth.
Hoffman accused Oliver of "putting me on display" and said he felt blindsided because neither Oliver nor Tribeca organizers had told him that the moderator would raise the subject. "It is reflective of who you were". There was a period of time when you were creeping around women.
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The thing I find most fascinating about John Oliver calling out Dustin Hoffman to his face is watching a person who has spent his life surrounded by sycophants, telling him only what he wants to hear, being so flummoxed by the novelty of truth.
Which is the kind of meaningless apology that puts the blame on the person you're supposed to be apologizing to.
"This is something we're going to have to talk about", Oliver said, "because It's hanging in the air". You came to moderate a discussion about a movie. Everyone was saying it to each other. From a few things you've read, you've made an incredible assumption about me. I said a stupid thing, but I said it in the midst of the crew, and they said their stupid things. He noted that the film they were gathering to discuss, "Wag The Dog", dealt with sexual misconduct by a powerful man. "But that's 40 years ago".
Oliver doesn't agree with Hoffman, either, saying, "I gotta say, I don't love that response either". 'Why the ... didn't I say something? "Do you understand how that feels like a dismissal?" "It doesn't feel self-reflective in the way that it seems the incident demands". You've made the case better than anyone else can.
"You also have the way men and women worked together [in the past]; you are in a situation where 'that was then, this is now, '" Rosenthal said. If you think asking a co-worker if he got laid recently is harmless, then it doesn't matter if the women in the room are bothered by it. Oliver responded, "I believe what she wrote, yes".
"Yes", Oliver replied. "Because there's no point in [an accuser] lying".