Spectator removes Harvey Weinstein quotes from interview

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Interviewer says he may have misrepresented conversation with movie producer

Harvey Weinstein leaving New York State Supreme Court in July.
Harvey Weinstein leaving New York state supreme court in July. Photograph: Justin Lane/EPA

The Spectator has formally retracted quotes it attributed to Harvey Weinstein, in which the disgraced former film mogul allegedly admitted to offering acting jobs in exchange for sex, in addition to deleting an unrelated description of Weinstein attempting to hit on women at a Christmas party.

The interview, by regular columnist and friend of Weinstein’s Taki Theodoracopulos, was live for several days after it was called into question after its publication on Friday. In the piece, the film producer responded to multiple accusations of sexual assault that could result in him being sent to prison.

The piece ran with the headline: “Harvey Weinstein: ‘I offered acting jobs in exchange for sex, but so does everyone – they still do’” and the subheading: “The disgraced movie producer reached out to Taki with a ‘world exclusive’ about Rose McGowan and Asia Argento”, making reference to two of the film producer’s accusers.

The magazine stated that Weinstein complained he had been born “poor, ugly, Jewish and had to fight all my life to get somewhere”.

“You got lotsa girls, no girl looked at me until I made it big in Hollywood,” the original Spectator piece quoted him as telling Theodoracopulos. “Yes, I did offer them acting jobs in exchange for sex, but so did and still does everyone. But I never, ever forced myself on a single woman.”

The claims that Weinstein had admitted he exchanged employment for sex were widely reported around the world but were soon denied by the film producer’s personal lawyer, who claimed he was present for the interview.

Theodoracopulos soon said he may have misinterpreted Weinstein but the piece initially remained unchanged over the weekend, prompting doubt over whether the magazine stood by the reporting.

However, it has now been updated to carry the headline: “My chat with Harvey Weinstein”, the most controversial quotes have been deleted, and it carries an “update” from the author.

“A section of this article, in which I may have misrepresented Harvey’s conversation with me in New York last month, has been removed,” said Theodoracopulos in the revised version. “It was my mistake. We were discussing Hollywood and I may have misunderstood certain things about the methods of that place. I hope I have not damaged his case.”

Theodoracopulos did not only remove quotes from Weinstein but also deleted a supplementary paragraph discussing the film producer’s approach to women: “I’ve seen Harvey in action during my annual Christmas party, the one I throw every year in New York with Michael Mailer. He hits on every young woman but in a naive way. ‘Will you give me your address and I’ll make you a star,’ is the theme of the pickup. Some say yes, some say no. His reaction was always the same. Smile and laugh and hit on the next one.”

It is unclear how Theodoracopulos misquoted Weinstein or why the separate commentary on the producer’s behaviour at Christmas parties was also deleted, since it was not relating to the recent interview with him.

Tweets and URLs relating to the original version of the piece have since been deleted or redirected.

Fraser Nelson, the editor of the Spectator, declined to comment on the retraction, citing the fact his magazine preferred to let its columnists speak for themselves and pointing out that the interview had been posted as a blog on the magazine’s US website.

Theodoracopulos, 81, is the offspring of a Greek shipping tycoon and has written the Spectator’s “High Life” column for more than four decades, regularly attracting controversy for his extreme rightwing views. In May, one of his columns regarding the army of Nazi Germany was published under the headline: “In praise of the Wehrmacht”. It was swiftly changed to “The other side of D-Day”. He has also written in defence of the violent neo-fascist Greek party Golden Dawn.