October 14, 2017

Amazon apologizes to staff for Hollywood sex harassment charges

Amazon’s expansion into Hollywood’s turf has lost some of its glow.

The Seattle-based behemoth, started two decades ago as an online bookseller, has evolved into a business powerhouse making and streaming movies and TV shows — and selling you snacks to munch on while watching.

But its movie industry connection has now made it party to a worsening sexual harassment scandal.

Roy Price, who heads up Amazon Studios, took a leave of absence Thursday after allegations arose of sexual harassment. Isa Hackett, the producer of the Amazon-created TV series The Man in the High Castle, told The Hollywood Reporter in a story published Thursday that Price repeatedly propositioned her in 2015 using crudely suggestive language.

Hackett is the daughter of late author Philip K. Dick, whose book serves as the basis for the series. Tech industry website The Information reported in late August that Amazon had investigated Price for these remarks.

Amazon exec Jeff Blackburn, the company’s senior vice president for business development, addressed the situation Friday in a memo to employees saying, “The news coming out of Hollywood over the past week has been shocking and disturbing — and unfortunately we are a part of it. It’s sad and very disappointing to me.”  BuzzFeed News first reported on the memo.

More: Harvey Weinstein scandal: Julia Roberts and Emma Thompson condemn, Oliver Stone and Jason Momoa apologize

More: Rose McGowan’s Harvey Weinstein tweets got her account locked. Some users now plan a boycott

More: Here’s what to ask if you feel that you are being sexually harassed

Amazon confirmed to USA TODAY that the memo was sent by Blackburn. “Amazon does not tolerate harassment or abuse of our employees or our business partners,” he said in the memo. “If a concern is brought to our attention, we investigate it quickly and thoroughly.”

Weinstein projects

Price’s departure comes a week after The New York Timespublished a story detailing nearly 30 years of sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein, who with his brother Bob co-founded The Weinstein Company, a studio that produced Silver Linings Playbookand The King’s Speech.

Weinstein began a leave of absence Oct. 6 and was ousted from his company two days later. An article in The New Yorker magazine this week chronicled accusations of rape and sexual assault against Weinstein. He has denied involvement in nonconsensual sex.

In a statement announcing Price’s immediate leave of absence, Amazon also said it would review options for projects it had with The Weinstein Co.

Two projects had been in the works from Amazon and Weinstein Television including The Romanoffs from Mad Men creator Matt Weiner and an untitled David O. Russell series starring Robert DeNiro and Julianne Moore.

Russell, De Niro and Moore issued a statement late Friday saying, “We support Amazon’s decision as In light of recent news and out of respect for all those affected  we have decided together that it is best to not move forward with this show.

Hackett told The Hollywood Reporter she reported the 2015 incident to Amazon executives and agreed to talk to the magazine after several women came forward — including Angelina Jolie and Gwenth Paltrow — with allegations against Weinstein.

Actress Rose McGowan, who was mentioned in the Times story, criticized Bezos on Twitter Thursday, saying she warned the head of Amazon’s studio about Weinstein raping her. “Over & over I said it. He said it hadn’t been proven. I said I was the proof,” she tweeted. She didn’t name the exec referred to as “he.”