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Here’s Why Ellen Pompeo’s Comments About Harvey Weinstein’s Victims Are So Wrong

Look, none of us are perfect. At certain points in our lives, we’ve all said things we now regret. So when I tell you that Ellen Pompeo made some truly heinous statements about Harvey Weinstein’s victims in 2018, I’m not trying to tear her down or “cancel” her. But I do think it’s important to call out what she said as wrong, and explain why those kinds of comments are so harmful.

Pompeo’s comments resurfaced from a 2018 Oxford Union panel after a Twitter clip went viral, prompting the actress to address the controversy on social media today. “Hey girls sorry if video clips are upsetting!!” the Grey’s Anatomy star wrote. “Its out of context & it’s too serious a subject to talk about on a platform like this.”

That may be, but Pompeo’s comments are already out there, and already being discussed on this and other platforms — and frankly, I’m disappointed that Pompeo didn’t disavow her prior comments outright. Here’s what she had to say about Weinstein’s victims in 2018.

“I think we bear some responsibility, not all, but it takes two to tango for sure,” she said on the panel. “That’s not to blame the victims, that’s just to say…I did go into a room with Harvey Weinstein, I sat at a table with him, I had a probably two-and-a-half hour conversation with him. He never said anything inappropriate to me, he never made any sort of physical advance to me.”

I’ll pause there and unpack. Pompeo’s use of the phrase “two to tango,” when referring to victims who were sexually assaulted or sexually harassed by Weinstein, implies that being attacked is a form of choosing to engage in an interaction. It’s not. It takes exactly one to tango when it comes to assault, and that one is the person doing the assaulting.

Second, the anecdote that she was once in a room with him and he didn’t do anything — um, okay? The accusation wasn’t that he assaulted every woman he was ever in a room with, and this is a “defense” you hear far too often from people unwilling to believe that their friend/relative/acquaintance could have committed sexual assault.

“I wasn’t in the room alone with him. I had been sent there by an agent in the middle of the daytime,” Pomep continued. “I wouldn’t have gone into that room at night. But he did nothing inappropriate toward me. Now had he, I would have picked up that glass and smashed him across the side of the face with it. So I mean, it’s all what we’re willing to tolerate in our self-esteem, and what are we going to put up with, and what are we going to compromise to be liked, to be loved, to be accepted? How bad do we want to be in show business?”

First of all, I will believe that Pompeo would have smashed a glass against Weinstein’s head when I see it. It’s so disheartening to see a star we know as a champion for women engage in such hurtful rhetoric, implying that Weinstein’s victims were either too weak to fight him off or “allowed” themselves to be attacked because they had low self-esteem. It’s undeniable that Weinstein used his power in the movie industry to coerce women into sexual acts — but is Pompeo really suggesting that it’s the woman’s fault if he succeeds in doing so?

To recap: Sexual assault and sexual harassment can happen to anyone, anywhere — no matter how strong, confident, and principled you consider yourself to be. Being attacked is not a moral failing, and it’s not an indictment of your character. To suggest otherwise is unimaginably cruel, and I hope to hear a more complete apology from Pompeo in days to come.

Before you go, check out these brave celebrities who have come forward with their own stories of sexual assault. 

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