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Dustin Hoffman and John Oliver squared off about sexual harassment Monday night during a panel discussion in New York, with both men sticking by their arguments as tension between them heated up.
Oliver, the “Last Week Tonight” host, moderated the chat, which was part of a Tribeca Film Institute 20th anniversary screening of the movie “Wag the Dog” and reported on by the Washington Post and WWD. (Kathryn Hopkins of WWD shot the video above.)
Oliver said he had to address an issue that was “hanging in the air”: accusations of sexual harassment against Hoffman in 1985 and 1991 made last month by a former intern and a then-struggling playwright.
“From a few things you’ve read you’ve made an incredible assumption about me,” Hoffman said, snarking, “You’ve made the case better than anyone else can. I’m guilty. Because someone has alleged something, I’m guilty. You push a button. It’s all over the world. I’m a predator. I’m this and that and it’s not true.”
Oliver cast the actor’s conditional apology, made in early November, as dismissive, while Hoffman explained that his behavior had simply been how cast and crew try to “break up the tension of shooting for 16 hours a day.”
The conversation about harassment dominated the discussion, according to the Post, despite attempts by Oliver and panelist Jane Rosenthal to shift its direction. Hoffman said at one point that he felt blindsided by the line of questioning.
After Oliver read from a 1985 diary entry written by intern Anna Graham Hunter, Hoffman asked the host if he believed what he’d just read.
“I believe what she wrote, yes,” Oliver said.
“Why?” asked Hoffman, who had accused the moderator of not keeping an open mind.
“Because there's no point in her lying,” said Oliver, who at one point called out Hoffman for not giving evidence that what the actor was accused of didn’t happen.
“There is a point in her not bringing this up for 40 years,” the 80-year-old countered.
“Oh, Dustin,” Oliver sighed, separately explaining, “What seems completely fine or normal to a certain group of people can have victims on the other end. So, ‘the things that we do between takes’ sounds benign — if it is to you. Does that make sense?”
“No, it doesn't,” the actor replied. “Because the crew and the actors are there, we are one, we are a family. Maybe I shouldn't have said things. … They bring these interns out on the set to watch. No one told us. No one said, ‘Oh, these girls are 17 years old.’ I didn't know they were there.”
12:45 p.m.: This article was updated with WWD video of the discussion and an extended quote from Dustin Hoffman.
This article was originally published at 9:36 a.m.