“Let’s talk about how I can do better,” Lisa Bloom said.
It was a Friday morning — the first day the attorney was back in her Woodland Hills law firm following her resignation as Harvey Weinstein’s adviser — and she’d called her staff into a meeting.
She wanted to apologize. She told her colleagues she’d made a “colossal mistake” in deciding to represent the Hollywood producer against numerous claims of sexual harassment. That she was sorry for associating the firm with a case that ended up being such a nightmare. That she should have known better.
So when it became known that Bloom was advising Weinstein — even as decades-worth of sexual harassment accusations came to the fore — the attorney found herself on the other side of her own issue. In the court of public opinion, not only was she a hypocrite, but she was a sellout, profiting from her cozy business relationship with a man who had recently decided to turn her book about Trayvon Martin into a television miniseries.
Even Allred, Bloom’s own mother, released a statement saying she not only would have declined to work with Weinstein but would not hesitate to represent one of his accusers, “even if it meant that my daughter was the opposing counsel.” The actress Rose McGowan, who claims Weinstein raped her, wrote on Facebook that Bloom offered her money if she “got on the ‘Harvey’s Changed’ bandwagon.” (Bloom said this was “absolutely false.”)
“I was never aware that there were allegations of sexual assault,” Bloom insisted, sitting in her office a few hours after the staff meeting. “Should I have — based on my long experience as a sexual harassment lawyer — assumed that it could have been a lot worse than what I knew? Yes, I should have assumed that. That’s on me.”
And that was why she felt the need to apologize to her staff. Apologies are big for Bloom. If ever one of her employees makes an error, she is quick to forgive if someone just says “I’m sorry.” She thought if she could get Weinstein to apologize to his accusers — something O’Reilly, Cosby and Donald Trump have never done — it might make a difference.
Bloom was influenced, she said, by comforting countless women who came to her for legal help after experiencing sexual harassment and sexual assault. “Every day there’s a woman in my office crying, ‘Why won’t he just admit it? Why does this have to be an open wound for my entire life? I don’t want to litigate, Lisa,’’’ she said. “Almost every single one comes to me and says, ‘If he would just apologize, then we could move on.’”
Indeed, after the New York Times published the first accounts of Weinstein’s behavior on Oct. 5, Bloom did break the usual deny-and-discredit pattern that plays out so often in these cases. Weinstein provided a statement that read in part, “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain and I sincerely apologize for it.”
But the statement — which Bloom said Weinstein verbally dictated — was widely derided. Beyond the apology, Weinstein attempted to blame his behavior on the fact that he “came of age in the ’60s and ’70s,” quoted a non-existent Jay-Z lyric and said he was going to channel his anger into a fight against the National Rifle Assn.
No one bought it.
Missing in Bloom’s calculations was the sheer number and severity of the allegations, which would be revealed by the New Yorker on Oct. 10 to include accusations of rape. Within 48 hours of the Times report, Bloom quit Weinstein’s team — only to find another client about to fall, Roy Price.
Graphic details of sexual harassment allegations against the Amazon Studios boss — first revealed in an August story on the technology news site the Information — came out in the wake of the Weinstein scandal. Price was quickly suspended and on Tuesday resigned from Amazon. Bloom put out a statement saying that her representation of Price had “concluded” before “The Man in the High Castle” executive producer Isa Hackett went public with her accusations. But Kim Masters, the journalist investigating Price, alleged that Bloom had tried to kill her story by spreading rumors about her.
Bloom said she could not comment on anything regarding Amazon Studios because, unlike Weinstein, Price had not released her from attorney-client privilege. That included Masters’ allegations, Bloom said, which “unfortunately I can’t respond to, as much as I would like to.”
Instead, she evoked the sentiments of Weinstein’s own statement.
“I feel very bad, because so many people have said that they really looked up to me as this champion for women and now I’ve been shown to be their champion, and it’s hurtful to them. I’m sorry,” Bloom said, her gaze drifting toward a drawing of her own role model, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, that was affixed on her office door. “This really hit me, because I certainly don’t want to hurt anyone. And I hadn’t thought of that. I’m still processing it.”
‘This is not OK’
Bloom said she first began talking to Weinstein about his behavior early this year, when the two were discussing the Martin docuseries. (She said she has no idea what will happen to the project now, but she is trying to “just let it go, whatever it’s gonna be.”)
Yes, she’d heard there were issues with the executive and women — “just from breathing air in Los Angeles,” she said. So she called him on it: “Very bluntly and directly, I asked him, ‘What is this? What’s happened? What have you done?’”
She said Weinstein told her that he had “verbally made a lot of inappropriate remarks to women both inside the workplace and outside the workplace.”
Discouraged, she tried to get through to him. “You have to understand the power imbalance. This is not OK,” she told him.
“Well, they laughed,” Weinstein responded. “They thought it was OK.”
“No, they didn’t,” Bloom said.
“He would repeat back to me, ‘The power imbalance, Lisa. I get it. I see it,’” she said. “He choked up — ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m sick. I’m stupid. I’ve hurt people. What can I do now?’ And I said, ‘You need to apologize. You can’t turn back time. But you can do the right thing now. Don’t go after the women, and get help. And stop it.’ He said, ‘Will you work with me to do that?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I will.’”
Before Bloom, Weinstein had worked with male lawyers. He told her that in the past, his attorneys would make jokes about the harassment rumors, “like it was funny or cool.” He wondered why no one had ever talked to him the way Bloom was; she wondered why he hadn’t previously considered hiring a more diverse legal team.
“So he hired me. I thought this was a good thing,” she said. “I thought I was doing something positive. I do believe I got through to him. However, it was far too little and far too late.”
“It wasn’t so much that I thought that I could change him — I’m not a therapist,” Bloom said. “I thought what I could do was change his reaction to the allegations once they came out. To get the guy at least to say when the big story breaks: ‘I did wrong. I apologize. I’m not going after the women.’ … And I did accomplish that.”
Yet even as Bloom was still coming to terms with the events of the past month — she attended the post-Burning Man gathering L.A. Decompression over the weekend in an attempt to gain perspective — she seemed focused on some of the smaller details of what went wrong. For instance, she said she should have waited for all of the accuser’s stories to be told before pushing Weinstein to apologize. Then, if he were to acknowledge his wrongdoing, he should do it on camera — not in a written statement.
”With every other client, she did a press conference where the person showed their feelings. I think Harvey didn’t have that in him,” said Wendy Walsh, who Bloom began representing in April in a sexual harassment suit against Fox News’ O’Reilly. “I believe America loves a story of redemption, but that story has a very long arc, and it begins with lots of stone-throwing, begging for forgiveness and then the Prodigal Son comes home. Lisa didn’t forecast the time for that arc. She came out with Act 3 when we were only at Act 1.”
The press conference is a signature Bloom tactic, one gleaned from her mother, whose firm she worked at from 1991 to 2001. From Bloom’s perspective, inviting the media into her office gives her the opportunity to fully present her client’s side of the story.
“I do it for a reason, strategically,” said Bloom, who spent eight years serving as an anchor on Court TV before launching her own firm in 2010. “I do it to get victories for my clients, or to get a message out that I feel needs to get out.”
In November, when her client decided not to go public with her accusations against Trump, Bloom showed up without her at the press conference to explain her absence.
“She was here in this very space and she couldn’t do it,” Bloom said, looking around her office, in which she has a treadmill desk and framed pictures of her three children. “Short of me dragging her out there and shoving her in front of the cameras, it just wasn’t going to happen. We got a lot of death threats called into the office that day and she overheard some people talking about some of them.”
She acknowledges that her press conferences have earned her a reputation as an attention-seeker, but insists she turns down “most” media requests. The lobby of her office, meanwhile, is decorated with framed press clippings from outlets like the Hollywood Reporter, Elle and the New York Times. And Bloom almost always looks camera-ready. Even on this warm afternoon in the Valley, it looks as if her hair has been blown-out professionally.
“I sometimes am invited to come on programs and discuss an issue I care about, and I enjoy that because I feel like I have something to say. I don’t always love it. There’s a lot of hassles. It takes half the day by the time you get in the car and get over there and the makeup and the hair and then it’s delayed and some guy is yelling at you who barely knows what he’s talking about and you don’t get to say anything. But obviously, yeah, I don’t do a lot of things that I don’t like to do at this point in my life.”
There’s not a lot that can shake Bloom, who is often the recipient of death threats — especially this month. After all, this is a woman who purchased the Los Feliz Murder Home last year for $2.3 million — a house where a doctor bludgeoned his wife to death with a hammer in 1959 and then killed himself.
“It didn’t freak me out at all. I ain’t afraid of no ghosts,” she said, noting that it will likely be another year until she and husband are able to move in following renovations.
A more realistic threat, however? Losing business in the wake of the Weinstein scandal. Bloom said potential client calls and emails have remained consistent over the past week, and she believes that “not everybody’s a social media hater who judges me by one mistake.”
“We are fine,” she said, shrugging off the concerns. “It doesn’t really change a lot for the firm.”
Just this week she was fighting on behalf of two women in a sexual harassment case.
She also has the majority of her clients standing by her. Janice Dickinson, whom Bloom represents in an ongoing sexual harassment case against Cosby, said she isn’t bothered that the attorney took on Weinstein.
“Attorneys are neutral,” the former supermodel said. “I respect the hell out of her. She’s a bulldog — she is her mother’s daughter, don’t forget. I feel like she’s a champion in representing women, and she helped me view my assault in perspective, going for therapy and group meetings and giving back to women that have been similarly accosted.”
Walsh, however, initially had more trouble accepting the news. Like every other “woman on the planet,” she recalled, her first reaction was: “What the hell?”
“But I completely believe in my heart that Lisa never knew the degree of these actions,” said the radio host. “She would never have been his voice if she knew about these rape allegations. I can promise you that. She’s not hanging out in Hollywood. Actresses in their 20s might have known, but not Woodland Hills women in their 50s who are lawyers.”
But there’s still a rift between Bloom and her mom. And of everything that’s been said about her over the past few weeks, it was the comments from her famous mother that hurt her the most.
“That was the most painful part,” Bloom said, growing quiet. “She stands by what she did. And it’s gonna take a lot of time to heal. I’ve stood by all of her choices for 40 years. You will research in vain to find something negative I’ve said about my mother. She’s made many controversial choices and done many provocative things. I’ve always believed in family first, and I feel that has now been breached.”
In recent days, Allred has walked back her original remarks. “Nothing that has happened in the recent past has altered my views of Lisa’s commitment to protecting and advancing women’s rights,” she posted on Facebook. “I stand behind Lisa and support her.”
Asked if the words provided comfort, Bloom responded: “I think it’s healthier for family members to call one another rather than do Facebook posts.”
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