Harvey Weinstein’s new lawyer has said women need to take responsibility for their actions, as she argued the #MeToo movement had done a disservice to the sex.
Donna Rotunno, who specialises in representing men accused of sex crimes, was hired by the disgraced producer along with Damon Cheronis to represent him at his upcoming trial on sexual assault charges.
Ms Rotunno has critcised the #MeToo movement which began after a string of celebrities came forward to make allegations against Mr Weinstein. “I’m not a woman who has ever subscribed to it,” she told the Wall Street Journal. “I believe women are responsible for the choices that they make.”
She added that by representing the movie producer she hoped to promote that stance, “and say to women, ‘Maybe don’t go to the hotel room, maybe we are having a different conversation’”.
It comes as a leaked recording shows Mr Weinstein telling reporters "I’m no sinner" shortly before the allegations against him were first published.
On the call, two New York Times reporters tell Mr Weinstein they have uncovered "a pattern over three decades of allegations of sexual harassment of multiple women" and offer the producer a chance to respond.
"I think you ought to be specific and tell me who they are and if they’re on the record," he demanded.
He added: "I’m not a saint, but I’m not the sinner you think I am." Challenging the reporters’ findings, Mr Weinstein warns: "There are many mistakes you’ve made. I promise we will find them."
He later says: "It seems like you have a lotta hearsay on your hands. I’m gonna say this nicely – get the facts right. … You’re journalists."
The recording was obtained by the website Inside Edition, which said the reporters were unaware the conference call was being recorded.
Mr Wesintein’s new legal hires, confirmed on Friday, are his third change in legal representation since he was first charged in May 2018 and comes barely two months before the start of his trial.
Mr Weinstein faces charges involving two different women – one who alleges he raped her in 2013, the other that he forced her to perform oral sex in 2006.
In an interview with Chicago Magazine last year, Ms Rotunno questioned the #MeToo movement’s insistence on "believing the women."
"We are in an era of conviction by allegation in this country right now," she said, "which flies in the face of the entire principle of innocent until proven guilty."
She also said that as a woman, she had an advantage on her male counterparts when it came to aggressively cross-examining alleged female victims. "He may be an excellent lawyer, but if he goes at that woman with the same venom that I do, he looks like a bully. If I do it, nobody even bats an eyelash. And it’s been very effective."
Mr Weinstein’s first lawyer, a high-profile New York defence attorney Ben Brafman, withdrew from the case in January.
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His replacements, Harvard law professor Ronald Sullivan and Jose Baez, pulled out one after another six months later. Prof Sullivan withdrew after coming under intense pressure from students on campus for defending the man seen as having given rise to the #MeToo movement.
Mr Baez later backed out citing "fundamental disagreements" with Mr Weinstein and telling a judge that his client’s behaviour had made representing him "unreasonably difficult."
The date of Mr Weinstein’s trial remains unchanged, with jury selection schedule to begin on September 9. The new lawyers have agreed to the date in court filings, according to US media reports.
Mr Weinstein denies the claims against him.