During a screening and film panel to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 1997's Wag the Dog, in which Dustin Hoffman starred alongside Robert De Niro, John Oliver reportedly asked Hoffman some uncomfortable questions about the sexual harassment allegations that have been directed at him. The conversation quickly grew heated, according to reporters who attended the event, with audience members even shouting their own opinions about the discussion.
Hoffman received a standing ovation at the 2017 Gotham Independent Film Awards last month, but it seems that not all fellow celebrities are sweeping the allegations against him under the rug. Anna Graham Hunter and Wendy Riss Gatsiounis's stories about Hoffman should be taken seriously — and John Oliver wasn't letting the actor off the hook.
After Graham Hunter first made her claims about Hoffman in a November essay for The Hollywood Reporter, Hoffman issued a statement to the outlet about the allegations. "I have the utmost respect for women and feel terrible that anything I might have done could have put her in an uncomfortable situation. I am sorry. It is not reflective of who I am," Hoffman's statement read.
But at the 92nd Street Y Wag the Dog panel on Monday night, Oliver questioned the Oscar-winner's statement.
"'It's not reflective of who I am' — it's that kind of response to this stuff that pisses me off," Oliver said at the event, according to The Washington Post. "Because it is reflective of who you were. If it happened, and you've given no evidence to show that it didn't happen, then there was a period in time, for a while, when you were a creeper around women. So it feels like a cop-out to say, 'Well, this isn't me.' Do you understand how that feels like a dismissal?"
Graham Hunter was a production assistant on the 1985 TV movie Death of a Salesman when she was 17, and when the alleged harassment occurred. Graham Hunter wrote in her THR essay that Hoffman "grabbed my ass." She also wrote about other alleged conversations Hoffman reportedly had with her that were sexual in nature.
At one point during the panel discussion, producer Jane Rosenthal also tried to enter the conversation at the panel, Deadline reports.
"It wasn't produced by Weinstein Co. or Miramax, so you don't have a really big conversation," Rosenthal said, according to Deadline. "Kevin Spacey wasn't starring in it. Let's look at real sexual criminal predators."
According to the Post's Steve Zeitchik, who attended the panel, Hoffman asked Oliver flat-out if he believed Graham Hunter's allegations about him. Oliver said that he did, "because there's no point in her lying." Hoffman then said that "there's a point in her not bringing this up for 40 years."
At one point, Oliver said that he would be "at home later at night hating myself" if he didn't bring up the allegations. Hoffman also described his experience working on Tootsie, saying to Oliver, "I would not have made that movie if I didn't have an incredible respect for women... The theme of the movie is he became a better man by having been a woman."
Yes, the topic is uncomfortable — and based on Zeitchik's report, it sounds like the audience's reaction to Oliver's questions was mixed. But at a time when new allegations about sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry seem to come out every day, it's difficult to be silent about the issue. Oliver did what he thought was right, and he gave Hoffman a chance to address the allegations, too. The issue is too pervasive to ignore — kudos to Oliver for tackling it head-on.
Reps for Oliver and Hoffman didn't immediately respond to Refinery29's request for comment.
An earlier version of this story read that Hoffman appeared to address Graham Hunter's claims during his discussion with Oliver. It is not clear who Hoffman was referring to in the clip.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
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