Ben Affleck is no stranger to controversy. From the often less-than-stellar reception to his portrayal of Batman to the tabloid coverage of his divorce from Jennifer Garner, he’s faced a lot of backlash in recent years.
And, like so many others, some of the biggest backlash he’s faced has been in regards to sexual harassment. Multiple women have forward to accuse the Justice League actor of misconduct.
That’s not the only controversy Affleck has faced with regard to Hollywood’s widespread issue with sexual assault. Two important figures in Affleck’s life — producer Harvey Weinstein and brother Casey — have also been accused of serious charges. He’s been asked to speak about all of these issues — and his responses have varied greatly.
1. He issued an apology (sort of)
I acted inappropriately toward Ms. Burton and I sincerely apologize
— Ben Affleck (@BenAffleck) October 11, 2017
In Oct. 2017, actress and former MTV anchor Hilarie Burton went public with claims that Affleck inappropriately groped her. Video footage of his 2003 appearance on MTV’s TRL confirmed that the actor inappropriately touched Burton’s breast while hugging her.
Burton handled the situation diplomatically at the time, laughing it off. But in the wake of widespread allegations against a number of prominent Hollywood figures, she chose to go public about how uncomfortable Affleck’s actions made her feel.
Affleck, for his part, was quick to issue an apology. On Oct. 11, 2017, he tweeted, “I acted inappropriately toward Ms. Burton and I sincerely apologize.”
But Burton is not the only person to accuse Affleck of misconduct. And his response to other allegations is considerably different.
2. Affleck has ignored other accusations
I would also love to get an apology from Ben Affleck who grabbed my ass at a Golden Globes party in 2014.
— Annamarie Tendler (@amtendler) October 11, 2017
Shortly after Burton’s accusations made headlines, another woman came forward with a similar story about Affleck. Makeup artist Annamarie Tendler tweeted that Affleck groped her at a 2014 Golden Globes party. And she, too, hoped for an apology from Affleck. Tendler told her followers that the actor grabbed her rear end as he walked by her.
“I guess he tried to play it like he was politely moving me out of the way and oops touched my butt instead of my lower back?” She said in another tweet.
While Affleck apologized to Burton, he has yet to issue any statement about Tendler’s accusations.
Just because Affleck hasn’t said anything about Tendler doesn’t mean he hasn’t been asked about the allegations against him.
3. Affleck has been asked repeatedly about sexual misconduct in Hollywood
In Nov. 2017, Affleck hit the rounds of daytime and nighttime talk shows to promote Justice League. And he was asked, on more than one occasion, about claims against him and his former colleagues.
In many cases, Affleck was visibly uncomfortable with the questions he was asked.
During a visit to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the host didn’t hold back when discussing Affleck’s ties to Harvey Weinstein. After telling Affleck he was a huge fan of Affleck’s breakout film, Good Will Hunting, Colbert brought up the producer’s name. And Affleck immediately grew nervous, asking the host, “This is a comedy show, correct?”
Colbert wasn’t the only host to ask Affleck about Weinstein, or the accusations against him. And while Affleck didn’t directly respond to Tendler’s report, he did confess to the Today Show’s Savannah Guthrie, “There are plenty of jokes I wouldn’t have made or things I wouldn’t have done.”
4. Affleck made a joke about it (worst timing ever)
— ً (@stormpiIott) November 13, 2017
Affleck has mostly stuck to talking points that frame him as sensitive and responsive to the sexual misconduct crisis in Hollywood. But he did make what appeared to be a badly timed joke about it.
During a joint MTV interview with his Justice League colleagues, the stars were asked how their characters would react if Supergirl were to join their forces. Ray Fisher responded, “It would create a different dynamic.” And then Affleck responded, “You following the news at all?”
Many fans on social media were angry with Affleck’s response because they felt it was dismissive of the many cases of sexual assault that have permeated the news.
It seemed particularly inappropriate given the fact that he, too, has been accused of misconduct. But, for his part, Affleck has been vocal about the need for change in Hollywood, too.
5. Affleck said he wants to be part of a solution
Affleck faced a potential public relations nightmare heading into the Justice League press junket. After all, as one of the film’s headlining stars, he could taint the movie’s opening with his own bad press.
But Affleck hasn’t minced words about the fact that he thinks things in Hollywood need to change. And he’s said that change has to come from him, too.
He told Stephen Colbert:
“I thought I had a sense of the scope of the problem and I thought I understood it and the truth is I really didn’t. I didn’t understand what it was like to be groped, to be harassed, to be interrupted, talked over, paid less, pushed around, belittled, all the things that women deal with that, for me as a man, I had the privilege of not having to deal with.”
And Affleck wants everyone to know he really means it when he says he’s going to be supporting women from now on.
6. Affleck is done with Weinstein’s money
— Ben Affleck (@BenAffleck) October 10, 2017
Harvey Weinstein’s long history of abuse of power, harassment, and assault dominated hasn’t just effectively ruined his career. It’s also cast a shadow on hundreds of well-known and beloved films — including many of Affleck’s.
The actor responded directly to the reports of Weinstein’s actions. On Oct. 10, 2017, he posted a message to his fans on Facebook:
I am saddened and angry that a man who I worked with used his position of power to intimidate, sexually harass and manipulate many women over decades. The additional allegations of assault that I read this morning made me sick. This is completely unacceptable, and I find myself asking what I can do to make sure this doesn’t happen to others. We need to do better at protecting our sisters, friends, co-workers and daughters. We must support those who come forward, condemn this type of behavior when we see it and help ensure there are more women in positions of power.
In later interviews, he admitted that he knew Weinstein was “sleazy” but said he didn’t know the extent of his behavior. Rose McGowan accused him of lying about his knowledge of Weinstein’s behavior. While he didn’t address her claims specifically, he did tell Guthrie that he admires and supports her tenacity in telling her story and advocating for other victims.
We will likely never know how much Affleck knew about Weinstein. But he has, at least, offered more than just lip service. He announced during his Justice League tour that he will be donating residuals from all of his Miramax films, including Shakespeare in Love and Good Will Hunting, to two women-focused organizations from now on. The first is RAINN, a nonprofit organization that helps rape victims. And the second is Film Independent, which has a history of promoting women in independent film.
Affleck is taking a step in the right direction with this move. But there’s one big elephant in the room that he hasn’t addressed.
7. Ben isn’t the only Affleck that’s been accused of sexual misconduct
As Casey Affleck was gearing up for award season in 2016 and 2017, stories about his troubling past started to make the rounds. In 2010, Affleck faced two sexual harassment lawsuits from former colleagues. The actor settled the suits privately, and the amount he paid has not been revealed.
But many feel that Affleck’s history — and subsequent rise in Hollywood — is yet another symptom of sexual misconduct being swept under the rug. And Ben has yet to make a single public statement about his brother.
While Affleck’s promises to pay closer attention to his own actions are important, it’s equally important for him to hold those in his life accountable. By condemning Weinstein while staying silent about his brother, Affleck is sending a message that only some cases are worth talking about. And that, unfortunately, makes his promises feel empty.
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