A+E Networks has been in business with the Weinstein Co. on numerous projects, most notably on Lifetime’s long-running “Project Runway” reality show and its numerous spinoffs. Weinstein Co. was also a producer the military drama “Six” for History, and the Weinstein Co.-BBC limited series production of “War and Peace” aired across History, Lifetime, and A&E Network in 2016.
Dubuc said she has witnessed Weinstein being “verbally abusive” to people but has never had a complaint or report of sexual misconduct in connection with a TWC program.
Pressure on Weinstein Co. network partners has increased with the New Yorker’s publication Tuesday of a detailed story featuring multiple women accusing Weinstein of rape and sexual misconduct stretching back decades. Harvey Weinstein was fired from the company he co-founded on Sunday following the publication of another exposé in the New York Times.
Dubuc called it “troubling” that it takes extreme examples such as the allegations against Weinstein or Bill Cosby to bring the problem of workplace sexual harassment to the forefront.
“One of the epidemics in our industry is the abuse of power,” she said. “When it’s pushed to extreme physical limits as in what we saw with Bill Cosby and what’s coming out now (with Weinstein) it is particularly troubling,” she went on. “But we’re also in an environment where it’s death by a thousand paper cuts. This kind of behavior exists day in and day out. It shouldn’t take people who push it to the extremes to get people’s attention.”
Dubuc commended the dozen-plus women who have gone public with stories of alleged harassment and worse from Weinstein, the storied indie film mogul who made his mark in the 1980s and ’90s.
“These women are incredibly courageous in coming forward,” Dubuc said. “We can’t let this discussion go. I’m disheartened that it takes something like this to create a conversation about what’s wrong.”
Dubuc said A+E had no immediate plans to change the terms of its business relationship with TWC. Harvey Weinstein as of Monday has been stripped of his executive producer credit on all of the company’s TV shows. Dubuc emphasized that Weinstein largely played a passive role in the production of the shows. On “Runway,” the heavy lifting is done by the team at Bunim/Murray Productions and exec producer Desiree Gruber, she said.
“Taking action against a show because of one individual’s behavior could put hundreds of jobs in jeopardy,” Dubuc said. “Behavior such as this would never be tolerated or condoned on this show. It would be reported up through the network immediately.”
As CEO of the company jointly owned by Disney and Hearst Corp., Dubuc said she has made it a priority to champion initiatives and programs designed to foster inclusion and respect in the workplace. She sees attitudes changing, albeit slowly. Even at the CEO level she’s sometimes surprised to find herself in situations where she’s a bystander to “conversations that are really the root of the problem,” she said.
“Some of it is perspective and a way of thinking that is going to take a long time to erode,” she added. “It’s going to take a lot of listening and a lot of soul-searching and tough questioning about who’s willing to step forward and change…I think that it’s a shame that it’s taken two very graphic, really disturbing, potentially criminal situations (in Weinstein and Cosby) to bring people’s attention to what is wrong.”