The Academy received three harassment claims on Wednesday and immediately opened a probe, according to sources familiar with the situation.
Bailey was elected president of the institution in August. If he were forced to step down, he would be temporarily replaced by Lois Burwell, a veteran makeup artist who is the Academy’s vice president, until the next election in July.
Bailey’s tenure has been marked by a historic shift in the Academy’s approach to misconduct by its members. In October, the Academy voted to expel Harvey Weinstein less than 10 days after the New York Times first reported on his history of sexual harassment. The Academy also replaced Casey Affleck, who settled two sexual harassment lawsuits in 2010, as the presenter of the best actress award at this year’s Oscars.
In December, the Academy established a code of conduct which provides that members may be disciplined or expelled for abuse, harassment or discrimination. The Academy also set up a claims process which set forth how such allegations would be adjudicated.
Under the policy, the Academy’s Membership and Administration Committee reviews allegations. If deemed credible, they can be forwarded to the full Board of Governors for consideration of discipline.
Bailey is a veteran cinematographer who shot such films as “The Big Chill” and “Groundhog Day.” He is the first “below the line” leader of the Board of Governors since the 1980s. He is also known as a scholar of film history, and had a keen interest in how the crafts would be represented in the Academy’s museum, which is now under construction.
Upon his election to a four-year term, succeeding Cheryl Boone Isaacs, there were concerns about whether a 75-year-old white man was best suited to lead the Academy at a time when it is making a push to diversify its membership.
When asked about that by Variety last year, Bailey said, “What you just said is bulls—. I was born a white man, and I can’t help it that I’m 75 years old. Is this some sort of limiting factor?”
Update, 1:43 p.m. The Academy issues a statement:
“The Academy treats any complaints confidentially to protect all parties. The Membership Committee reviews all complaints brought against Academy members according to our Standards of Conduct process, and after completing reviews, reports to the Board of Governors. We will not comment further on such matters until the full review is completed.”