The American Civil Liberties Union is set to honor a number of Hollywood celebrities for their advocacy on behalf of women at a glitzy awards dinner in Beverly Hills in December, even as the civil rights organization has remained largely silent on the apparent rampant sexual mistreatment of women across the entertainment industry.
The ACLU’s 2017 Bill of Rights Dinner — set for December 3 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel — will honor celebrities including actresses Jane Fonda, Viola Davis, and Gina Rodriguez, activist Dolores Huerta, filmmaker Reginald Hudlin, and director Judd Apatow, among others.
The event will also feature appearances from CNN personality Van Jones and actor Michael Sheen.
Writer-director Apatow is set to receive the Bill of Rights Award at the event for his advocacy on behalf of women in the arts, according to Deadline, while Fonda will receive the special Ramona Ripston Liberty, Justice, and Equality Award for “being an outspoken and lifetime advocate on behalf of women and girls, peace issues, veterans, Native Americans, the environment, and health.”
Sponsorships are available for the event. Amazon Studios — which just saw the dismissal of its top executive, Roy Price, over allegations of sexual misconduct — is listed among the “Guardians of Liberty” for the dinner, while HBO — which has maintained it was not aware of sexual misconduct allegations against Entourage star Jeremy Piven during his time on the show — is listed among the “Defenders of Rights” sponsors.
“The past year has been a trying and uncertain time for our country,” ACLU executive director Hector Villagra writes in the event invitation. “Never ones to passively accept threats, Southern Californians have taken a stand and chosen freedom over fear at every turn. As we reflect on the movement we have built to advance the cause of liberty and justice for all, we thank and honor those who raise their voices to tell our story and inspire our future.”
While Villagra did not specify what he meant by his reference to a “trying and uncertain time for our country,” it is certainly a trying and uncertain time in Hollywood, which has been rocked nearly daily by allegations of rampant sexual misconduct, harassment, abuse, assault, and in some cases, rape.
Since the New York Times first published its now-infamous exposé on Hollywood super-producer Harvey Weinstein in early October — outlining decades of allegations of sexual abuse from multiple women — nearly 70 prominent figures in entertainment and media have been accused of sexual misconduct of varying severity, and that list is likely to grow in the coming weeks. Some have been accused by multiple women, including Justice League star Ben Affleck, who was accused of grabbing the backsides of at least two women at Hollywood functions, and director and producer Brett Ratner, who has been accused by six women of sexual misconduct, including alleged assault.
This week, two-time Oscar-winner and perennial Emmy nominee Kevin Spacey was accused of attempted rape by an ex-boyfriend, who claimed he was a minor when the alleged incident took place. And veteran actor Dustin Hoffman was also accused of sexual harassment, from an actress who claims she was 17 when the alleged incident occurred.
And yet, the ACLU has remained mostly silent, even as Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson says the problem of sexual misconduct is “endemic” in Hollywood, and even as below-the-line employees on film sets — those in audio booths, in lighting departments, in craft services, and elsewhere — remain fearful of speaking up.
A search by Breitbart News of the ACLU’s press releases since early October turns up no official statement of condemnation of any individual or major company involved in the Hollywood misconduct scandal, nor of any call for an investigation into entertainment industry practices, or other similar action.
Gillian Thomas, an attorney working for the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, published a blog post on October 17 on the ACLU website that briefly discusses what employees and businesses can do to ensure that incidents of workplace harassment, assault, and gender discrimination are dealt with properly, and ultimately eliminated.
But apart from the blog post, the ACLU has issued no press releases on the scandal, nor has it called for a federal investigation of entertainment industry practices.
Just two years ago, the ACLU did call for a federal investigation into Hollywood — specifically, into major studios’ and talent agencies’ hiring practices. The organization, ostensibly, wanted studio executives and top talent agents to go to jail — or at least pay a hefty fine — for what it called a “systemic failure” by decision-makers in Hollywood to hire female directors in film and television. The group cited studies, including one conducted by UCLA, that found that women had directed just 1.9 percent of the one hundred top-grossing films between 2013-2015.
“Women directors aren’t working on an even playing field and aren’t getting a fair opportunity to succeed… Gender discrimination is illegal,” ACLU of Southern California’s Melissa Goodman said in a statement at the time. “And really Hollywood doesn’t get this free pass when it comes to civil rights and gender discrimination.”
And yet, it appears that a “free pass” is precisely what the ACLU is giving Hollywood now, two years after its lobbying effort on behalf of female directors and in the wake of near non-stop horrific allegations from hundreds of women, who each will live with the effects of their mistreatment for the rest of their lives.
“We have not issued a press release, but we’ve done numerous interviews with the press on this issue, posted blogs from attorneys, and spoken out on social media and other platforms,” an ACLU spokesman told Breitbart News in an email. “As is the case with other organizations, formal press releases don’t represent the totality of our work.”
But the organization appears to have published just one blog post on the scandal, and its posts on social media about the issue consisted mainly of links to that one blog post. ACLU representatives have spoken with some media, including Bloomberg and the New York Times, but the statements appear to be simply general observations, or soft denunciations of Hollywood’s behavior.
“One positive effect is that lots of women have spoken out,” the Southern California chapter of the ACLU told Bloomberg in a statement on October 8. “The industry will change only when women feel it’s safe to speak out against the sexism that manifests not only in rampant sexual harassment but also in the failure to hire women or pay them equally.”
Meanwhile, since the sex misconduct scandal broke in early October, the ACLU did find time to issue a press release condemning the College Wresting Association for a “discriminatory” rule that states female wrestlers cannot compete against male wrestlers, if women are unavailable to compete.
A senior attorney with the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project said the rule was “based on antiquated gender stereotypes, including assumptions about differences in strength between male and female athletes and outdated notions about the propriety of physical contact between men and women.”
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum