In December, I was connected to a woman who was ready to share her story. The approach was familiar, something that has happened dozens of times to editors and reporters at The Hollywood Reporter and other media outlets since Oct. 5, the day Harvey Weinstein's first accusers came forward and launched the #MeToo movement that is sweeping the worlds of entertainment, media, politics, fashion and more.
The woman, a well-known journalist and author named Susan Braudy, had been telling this story to her closest friends for decades. In the late '80s, when Braudy was in her 40s, she was hired to run the New York office of Stonebridge Productions, the production company launched by actor and producer Michael Douglas, then one of the biggest and most powerful stars in Hollywood. She claimed she was subjected to sexual harassment by Douglas that included near-constant profane and sexually charged dialogue, demeaning comments about her appearance, graphic discussions regarding his mistresses and more. The most traumatizing experience, she said, took place during a one-on-one script meeting in his apartment, during which Douglas masturbated in her presence, prompting her to run home crying.
Thus began the vetting process. Many have dubbed the #MeToo movement and the sudden willingness of women to tell their stories of abuse as a "reckoning" for Hollywood, but it has sparked an equally large shift in the way the media covers these stories as well. For decades, most publications wouldn't touch accounts of alleged workplace harassment and abuse, either because the alleged victims wouldn't go on the record or, if they did, they weren't taken seriously, or the accused perpetrator could strong-arm an outlet with an effective publicist or lawyer. The Weinstein story changed all that.
Now, the accounts are being taken much more seriously, and story after story has become public. Media outlets each have their own standards of what rises to the level of fit for publication. I can only speak for THR (though I've discussed this issue with editors at other outlets), but what I look for in evaluating claims is whether there has been an alleged abuse of power, whether there are witnesses to the alleged behavior or people who were told about it in the aftermath and will say so, and whether there is any other corroborating evidence. Our lawyers also are consulted on each story. Many accounts don't survive the vetting process. Some do, such as past articles revealing claims against Dustin Hoffman, Russell Simmons, Roy Price, Robert Knepper and others.
High-profile men who have been accused of sexual misconduct:
High-profile men accused of sexual harassment, assault and misconduct
High-profile men accused of sexual harassment, assault and misconduct
Movie producer Harvey Weinstein is accused of sexually assaulting or harassing dozens of women, including a number of well-known celebrities, over the past several decades.
Matt Lauer was fired from 'Today' after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct that allegedly included giving a co-worker a sex toy and dropping his pants in front of a female employee in his office.
Actor Jeffrey Tambor has been accused of sexual assault by two women from the Amazon series, "Transparent."
Eleven women have come forward accusing President Donald Trump of unwanted touching or kissing. Trump has called the sexual harassment claims 'fake news.'
(Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Sen. Al Franken is accused of kissing and groping a woman without her consent during a United Service Organizations (USO) tour in 2006.
(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Director Woody Allen has been accused of sexual assault by his daughter, Dylan Farrow. She says she experienced inappropriate behavior by her adoptive father on several occasions.
Hundreds of women accused longtime Hollywood writer and director James Toback of sexual harassment.
(TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
Comedian Louis C.K. has been accused of forcing women to watch him masturbate, according to the New York Times.
(Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images)
Director Bret Ratner has been accused of sexual harassment by several women, including actresses Olivia Munn and Natasha Henstridge.
(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Actor Anthony Rapp accused Kevin Spacey of making a sexual advance towards him when he was 14 years old.
Roger Ailes, the former president of Fox News Channel, was accused of sexually harassing former anchor Gretchen Carlson and several other women from the network.
(Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)
Several women accused TV host Charlie Rose of sexual misconduct, including groping and lewd phone calls.
(Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
Bill Cosby has faced sexual assault allegations from about 60 women, including several women who claim he drugged them.
(Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images)
Four women, including several that were also fellow Scientologists, have accused actor Danny Masterson of sexual assault, according to HuffPost.
(Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)
Mark Schwahn, the former "One Tree Hill" showrunner, was accused of sexual harassment by a large number of the show's cast and crew.
(Photo by JB Lacroix/WireImage)
Roy Moore faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct with underaged girls.
Bill Clinton faced numerous allegations of sexual assault and misconduct while he was president of the United States, with accusers including Juanita Broaddrick, who accused him of rape, Kathleen Willey who said he groped her and Paula Jones who said he exposed himself to her without consent.
(Photo by Dirck Halstead/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
Actor Casey Affleck settled lawsuits out of court wth two women who accused him of sexual harassment.
(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Film Independent)
Bill O'Reilly has reportedly made numerous settlements with women who accused him of sexual harassment.
(Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Anthony Weiner, a former Democratic congressman was sentenced to 21 months in prison in September 2017 after pleading guilty to sexting a teenage girl.
(TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Veteran journalist Mark Halperin has been accused of sexually harassing women while he worked at ABC News.
(Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Singer R. Kelly is accused of holding women against their will in houses in Illinois and Georgia in a reported 'sex cult.'
(Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)
Former Fox Host Eric Bolling was accused of sending unsolicited lewd text messages to female colleagues.
(Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
Director Roman Polanski fled the US after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. Several other women have also come forward to accuse him of sexual assault.
Chef John Besh stepped down from the company he founded after female employees reported facing sexual harassment there.
(Photo by Mireya Acierto/Getty Images for NYCWFF)
Photographer Terry Richardson was labeled the 'Harvey Weinstein of Fashion' by the Sunday Times amid widespread accusations of sexual harassment by models.
(Photo by Eugene Gologursky/WireImage)
Singer Kesha accused Lukasz Gottwald aka Dr. Luke of drugging and sexually assaulting her on multiple occasions.
(Photo by Tommaso Boddi/WireImage)
Former champion boxer Mike Tyson was convicted of raping a Miss Black America contestant in 1992.
Former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar has been accused of sexual abuse by dozens of his former patients and athletes.
(JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Music mogul L.A. Reid left his position as Epic Records CEO/Chairman in 2017 amid harassment claims by a female assistant.
(Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)
Amazon Studios chief Roy Price resigned following reports that he harassed a producer and ignored an actress' allegation of sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein.
(Photo by Paul Zimmerman/WireImage)
Several women have accused former President George H.W. Bush of groping them during photo ops.
Chris Savino (right), creator of 'The Loud House' was suspended by Nickelodeon after being accused of making unwanted advances toward multiple women.
(Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for SCAD)
Actor Steven Seagal was accused of sexual misconduct by Inside Edition's chief investigative correspondent Lisa Guerrero.
(Photo by Paul Archuleta/Getty Images,)
Michael Oreskes, senior vice president of news and editorial director of National Public Radio, was accused of inappropriate conduct with two women in 1990s.
Dustin Hoffman was accused of sexually harassing a production assistant when he was 48 and she was a high school senior.
Jeremy Piven was accused by actress Ariane Bellamar of groping her on two separate occasions. Piven 'unequivocally' denied the allegations.
Ben Affleck apologized for acting 'inappropriately' towards Hilarie Burton during an appearance on MTV's "Total Request Live" in 2003.
Aziz Ansari was accused of sexual misconduct by a woman he went on a date with.
Andy Dick was accused of sexual harassment and misconduct on set, including groping people’s genitals, unwanted kissing/licking and sexual propositions.
(Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images)
Rep. Ruben Kihuen, (D) Nevada, was accused of making repeated, unwanted propositions for dates and sex to a woman that once worked on his campaign.
(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Actor Ed Westwick was accused by actress Kristina Cohen of raping her in his home.
David Guillod, producer of 'Atomic Blonde,' is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting several woman.
(Photo by Jennifer Lourie/Getty Images)
Andrew Kreisberg, the showrunner for "Supergirl," was suspended in November 2017 amid numerous sexual harassment allegations by members of his staff.
(Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Actor Tom Sizemore was reportedly told to leave a film set in 2003 after an 11-year-old actress told her mother that he had touched her genitals.
Steve Jurvetson left his own venture capital firm after allegations of sexual harassment
(Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch)
A former model accused George Takei of sexually assaulting him 36 years ago.
(Photo by Tara Ziemba/FilmMagic)
Olympic gold medalist Hope Solo accused former FIFA president Sepp Blatter of sexually assaulted her at an award ceremony in 2013.
A former writer for 'Mad Men' said the show's creator Matthew Weiner told her that she owed it to him to let him see her naked.
Ron Jeremy has been accused of sexually assaulting more than a dozen women and the allegations span more than 30 years.
(Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)
Multiple women accused producer Adam Fields of touching them inappropriately and sexually propositioning them.
(Photo by Taylor Hill/WireImage)
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has been accused of unwanted sexual advances by former staffers.
(Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)
John Lasseter, the head of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, was accused of crossing the line with employees, including unwanted hugs.
(Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)
Singer Nick Carter was accused of rape by a former member of the all-girl teen band Dream, Melissa Schuman.
(Photo by Ray Tamarra/GC Images)
A singer accused billionaire Richard Branson of sexual assault during an event as his Necker Island in the Caribbean. Branson says he has no recollection of the matter.
Talent agent Adam Venit is accused of grabbing actor Terry Crews' genitals.
(Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images)
Jeordie White (aka Twiggy Ramirez), Marilyn Manson former longtime bassist, was accused of rape by singer Jessicka Addams.
(Photo by Chris Weeks/WireImage for Bragman Nyman Cafarelli)
Lockhart Steele, Vox Media's editorial director was fired after a former employee accused him of sexual harassment.
(Photo by Hal Horowitz/WireImage for Haute Magazine)
Producer Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein's brother, has also been accused of sexual harassment.
(Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for The Weinstein Company)
Jesse Lacey of the band, Brand New, was accused of sexual misconduct, including soliciting nude photos from a teen girl in the past.
(Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Redferns)
Senior Correspondent for E! News Ken Baker California was accused of sexual harassment by two women.
(Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
American film director Oliver Stone was accused of groping model and actress Carrie Stevens in the 1990s.
(Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)
Reporter Glenn Thrush was suspended by the New York Times after several women accused him of acting inappropriately when they were young journalists.
(Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
Veteran radio host Garrison Keillor was fired by Minnesota Public Radio following claim of improper behavior.
(Photo by Al Pereira/WireImage)
CNN producer Teddy Davis was fired after multiple accusations of harassment.
(Photo via Twitter)
Producer Russell Simmons stepped down from his companies following sexual assault and harassment accusations from two women.
Longtime conductor James Levine was suspended by New York's Metropolitan Opera after sexual abuse claims.
(Photo by Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images)
Dylan Howard, editor in chief of the National Enquirer, was accused of sexual misconduct by several former employees, including forcing them to watch porn and openly discussing his sexual partners.
"X-Men" director Bryan Singer was accused of raping a 17-year-old boy on a yacht in a lawsuit filed in December.
Harold Ford, Jr.
(Munshi Ahmed/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Chef Mario Batali has been accused by multiple women of "inappropriate touching in a pattern of behavior that spans at least two decades."
(Photo by Donna Ward/Getty Images)
PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley's show was suspended amid misconduct allegations made against him.
Former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb was fired from his job as an ESPN contributor amid accusations of sexual harassment by a wardrobe stylist at the network.
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Sen. Jeff Klein (D-New York), was accused of forcibly kissing a former female staffer back in 2015.
(Photo by Mark Sagliocco/FilmMagic)
Ross Levinsohn, Los Angeles Times CEO and publisher, has reportedly been a defendant in two sexual harassment lawsuits and would rate the "hotness" of his female colleagues, according to a report by NPR.
(Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
A woman accused magician David Copperfield of drugging, sexually assaulting her when she was teen model in the 80s, according to The Wrap.
James Franco was accused by several women of sexually inappropriate behavior. He was also criticized for wearing a "Time's Up" pin to the Golden Globes hours before the accusations against him surfaced.
(Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
Barry Lubin, also known as Grandma the clown, resigned from Big Apple Circus after admitting to pressuring a 16-year-old girl into posing for pornographic photos in 2004.
(Photo by David L Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Arizona Wildcats head football coach Rich Rodriguez was fired amid troubling off-field allegations. His former administrative assistant says Rodriguez inappropriately grabbed and touched her.
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
President Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was accused of sexual assault by pro-Trump singer Joy Villa. She claims he hit her on the buttocks during an event at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
(Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
Steve Wynn, Chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts, has been accused of sexual misconduct by dozens of peple. The Wall Street Journal the casino mogul regularly pressured employees to perform sex acts.
Music exec and 'The Four' judge Charlie Walk was accused of sexual harassment by a former employee. Life Lab founder Tristan Coopersmith penned an open letter about Walk in January claiming he sent her lewd comment and cornered her in the bedroom he shared with his wife.
(Photo by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images for Vh1 Save The Music)
Several women filed sexual harassment complaints against Humane Society CEO Wayne Pacelle, according to the Washington Post.
(Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Actor Scott Baio, was accused of molesting is former 'Charles in Charge' co-star Nicole Eggert when she was a minor.
Paris Dennard, GOP commentator
(Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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In Susan Braudy's case, she provided a detailed written account of her experience with Douglas based on notes and files she kept, a timeline of her employment (including pay stubs), and three people she told of her experience who were willing to back her publicly, including two well-known authors. She also has a 1993 letter from the California Women's Law Center showing she inquired about remedies for sexual harassment in the workplace (read it here), though she says she was too intimidated to follow through with a complaint.
Braudy's job, which she performed first in a small office suite but then mostly out of the living room in Douglas' Manhattan home, was to "read scripts, hire and supervise screenwriters, and perhaps most important, to babysit Michael in his apartment," she writes in her account. The entertainment industry is filled with such unconventional workplaces, many of which blur the lines between public and private lives. Movie sets often are considered akin to summer camp. And everyone from personal assistants to makeup artists to, yes, development executives often find themselves in the inner sanctums of those with enormous power and influence.
While Douglas, whose star in the late '80s was rising thanks to the hits Fatal Attraction and Wall Street, was not often in New York, when he was, Braudy writes, she "did my best to shrug off the cloud of sexual aggression that Michael reflexively emitted." She says he openly discussed affairs with co-star Kathleen Turner and a European heiress. "I knew something was off but had no name for it," she writes. "I'd never heard there was a phenomenon called sexual harassment and didn't know the term until the Anita Hill hearings in 1991."
There were incidents with Douglas she says she found especially alarming. In a one-on-one meeting on her first day, he used a crude term for female genitalia. Later, "one screenwriter I hired asked if he could bring his daughter to meet Michael," she writes. "She asked Michael for a banana. Michael strode to me and said so that only I could hear, 'Yes. And then you can tell your friends you licked Michael Douglas' banana.' I was appalled."
To stop his commenting about her body, "I began wearing long, loose layers of black," she writes. "He asked a producer, 'Why does Susan dress like a pregnant nun?' Another time I laughed loudly and he shouted to a group of agents, 'Oh yeah, she's a screamer! I bet she screams in the sack.' I protested, 'Please, don't talk like that. It's inappropriate.' This made him laugh until he got pink splotches on his cheeks."
See photos of Michael Douglas and his wife:
Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas together
Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas together
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 14: Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones attend The Robin Hood Foundation's 2018 benefit at Jacob Javitz Center on May 14, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Robin Hood)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 30: Actors Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones attend the Lifetime Luminaries screening of 'Cocaine Godmother, The Griselda Blanco Story' at NeueHouse Madison Square on November 30, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Lifetime)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 09: Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones attend the Los Angeles Mission Legacy of Vision Gala at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on November 9, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 09: (L-R) Kirk Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anne Douglas, and Michael Douglas attend the Los Angeles Mission Legacy of Vision Gala at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on November 9, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones attend The Actor's Fund Career Transition For Dancers 2017 Jubilee Gala at Marriott Marquis Hotel on November 1, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones attend Actors Fund Career Transition For Dancers Gala on November 1, 2017 at The Marriott Marquis in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 03: Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas pose backstage during 'City Winery Presents A Celebration of the Music of Jimmy Webb' at Carnegie Hall on May 3, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Al Pereira/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 22: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones pose backstage at the hit musical 'Sunset Boulevard' on Broadway at The Palace Theater on February 22, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 08: Actor Michael Douglas and actress Catherine Zeta-Jones attend the 15th annual Movies For Grownups Awards at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on February 8, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07: Actors Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones attend Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 17: Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones attend Jazz at Lincoln Center's Ertegun Atrium and Ertegun Hall of Fame grand reopening at Jazz at Lincoln Center on December 17, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew Toth/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 03: Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones attend the AARP Movies for Grownups Gala Countdown Lunch with actor/producer Michael Douglas, 2016 Career Achievement Honoree, on December 3, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for AARP)
Actors Catherine Zeta-Jones (hat) and Michael Douglas (R) watch Flavia Pennetta of Italy play against Roberta Vinci of Italy during their 2015 US Open Women's Singles -Finals at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 12, 2015 in New York. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 27: Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones attend NYC Dance Alliance Foundation's 'Bright Lights Shining Stars' Gala at NYU Skirball Center on September 27, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Santiago Felipe/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 8: Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas with their children Dylan and Carys as they attend the European Premiere of Marvel's 'Ant-Man' at the Odeon Leicester Square on July 8, 2015 in London, England.(Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 11: Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas attend The 2015 Actors Fund Gala at The New York Marriott Marquis on May 11, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE 40TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL -- Pictured: (l-r) Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones walk the red carpet at the SNL 40th Anniversary Special at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York, NY on February 15, 2015 -- (Photo by: Jamie McCarthy/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 12: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones pose backstage at the hit play 'It's Only a Play' on Broadway at The Jacobs Theater on February 12, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
EAST HAMPTON, NY - JULY 06: Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas attend the 'And So It Goes' premiere at Guild Hall on July 6, 2014 in East Hampton, New York. (Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 29: Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones attend the Phoenix House Public Service Award Dinner at Cipriani 42nd Street on January 29, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Grant Lamos IV/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 05: Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones (L) and actor Michael Douglas attend the 2014 AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Jane Fonda at the Dolby Theatre on June 5, 2014 in Hollywood, California. Tribute show airing Saturday, June 14, 2014 at 9pm ET/PT on TNT. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AFI)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 05: Actors Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones arrive at the 2014 AFI Life Achievement Award Gala Tribute at Dolby Theatre on June 5, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones attend the 41st Annual Chaplin Award Gala at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City. ï¿½ LAN (Photo by Lars Niki/Corbis via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas attends the 14th annual Monte Cristo Award at The Edison Ballroom on April 21, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/WireImage)
Michael Douglas & Catherine Zeta Jones arriving for the 40th Annual Chaplin Award Gala Honoring Barbra Streisand at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City on 4/22/2013... (Photo by Walter McBride/Corbis via Getty Images)
Actor Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones on the red carpet at the 85th Academy Awards (Oscars) held at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood. (Photo by Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 31: Actors Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones attend the Open Road, The Cinema Society & Michael Kors premiere of 'Side Effects' at AMC Loews Lincoln Square on January 31, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic)
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At script meetings in his apartment, "Michael was usually barefoot, his blue oxford shirt unbuttoned to his navel," she writes. "I sat across the room on the yellow silk couch taking notes." Then one afternoon in early 1989, as they brainstormed an idea about an E.T.-like character, she recalls him sliding down the back of his chair and onto the floor. "Michael unzipped his chinos and I registered something amiss. Still complimenting my additions to our E.T. imitation, his voice lowered at least half an octave. I peered at him and saw he'd inserted both hands into his unzipped pants. I realized to my horror that he was rubbing his private parts. Within seconds his voice cracked and it appeared to me he'd had an orgasm."
Braudy writes that she closed her notebook and rushed for the door: "I said nothing. I was surprised I wasn't falling to pieces even though I was humiliated. I realized he thought he could do anything he wanted because he was so much more powerful than I was. Michael ran barefoot after me to the elevator, zipping his fly and buckling his belt. 'Hey, thank you, you're good. You helped me, thank you, thank you.'"
Braudy says she jogged 13 blocks home, locked her front door, got into bed and crawled under her quilt: "I vowed I'd never be alone with him again."
Some women who want to come forward with stories of harassment must contend with the challenge that they never told anyone of their experience until years later. But Braudy says she did tell people, including best-selling author (and Hollywood Reporter columnist) Michael Wolff, the author and former Newsweek journalist Lynn Povich, and Joseph Weintraub, a film editor who currently lives with Braudy.
"I was told in the immediate aftermath — that day or the next," says Wolff in an email. "We have discussed the incident many, many times since, as well as Douglas' relentless, goading, mocking and belittling sexual behavior." Wolff describes Braudy's state of mind in the aftermath of the alleged incident as "shaken, bewildered, frightened, angry."
Susan Braudyvia Getty Images
Braudy also reached out to Povich to ask if she remembered being told about the incident. "Yes, they can use my name because it's true you told me at the time," Povich wrote back in an email. "Keep me posted."
After the alleged incident, Braudy writes, her working relationship with Douglas soured. "When he sweetly asked me to sign a confidentiality agreement, I knew Michael was preparing to fire me," she writes. "'Don't sign,' my lawyer Leon Friedman said. 'Keep saying your lawyer is out of town.' So Michael waited six months for my lawyer 'to return.'" She was let go in late 1989. Unlike most employees in a position like hers, she says she never did sign a confidentiality agreement.
Another part of the process of reporting a story about alleged harassment is reaching out to the subject of the story for comment. Douglas, via his lawyer, first asked to speak off the record with the editor. So THR's deputy editorial director Alison Brower and I arranged a call with Douglas and his team. The conversation was off the record, but he provided a written statement in which he called the story "an unfortunate and complete fabrication." His statement also addressed Braudy personally: "This individual is an industry veteran, a senior executive, a published novelist and an established member of the women's movement — someone with a strong voice now, as well as when she worked at my company more than three decades ago. At no time then did she express or display even the slightest feeling of discomfort working in our environment, or with me personally. That is because at no time, and under no circumstance, did I behave inappropriately toward her."
He acknowledged inappropriate discussions but refuted her claim of a hostile workplace. "Coarse language or overheard private conversations with my friends that may have troubled her are a far cry from harassment," he said. "Suggesting so does a true disservice to those who have actually endured sexual harassment and intimidation."
A terse statement of denial is how many of the accused have responded to allegations of misconduct. But Douglas wasn't finished. Last week he gave a phone interview in which he preemptively denied Braudy's claims before they were even made public and attacked her without mentioning her name. "Maybe she is disgruntled her career didn't go the way she hoped and she is holding this grudge," he said. Public relations experts call this getting in front of the story.
At THR, Douglas' strategy didn't alter our vetting process. We determined that both Braudy's story and his denial deserved to be published. As the floodgates have opened and new accusers come forward nearly every day, some have said the #MeToo movement has gone too far and that the media is either complicit in a burgeoning witch hunt or, worse, exploiting the situation for notoriety or web traffic or whatever. While there are stories that have crossed a line, I don't think the solution is to listen to women less or dismiss their stories more. Responsible media outlets, it seems, should be listening to these stories, vetting them thoroughly and presenting those that pass muster in the proper context. That's our standard, at least.
As more women come forward, we are looking forward to the next stage of this movement: We're reporting aggressively on gender-based pay inequity, the opportunities being offered women (particularly women of color), and we're seeking hard data to hopefully provide the bedrock for real change for women in the entertainment workplace and beyond. We're excited about getting to the next stage, where evolution truly occurs.
For Braudy, she says she isn't surprised Douglas came out swinging against her. "I believe this is part of the problem, as is his pretext of victimization," she told me in one of our phone conversations. "These are some reasons why so many women don't come forward with their stories — Lord knows it's taken 30 years and a movement for me to gather my courage."
Matthew Belloni is editorial director of The Hollywood Reporter.