Depending on whom you ask, John Oliver was either a hero or a quintessential British villain when he grilled Dustin Hoffman about his long-standing sexual-harassment allegations at a 20th anniversary screening of Wag the Dog earlier this month. “It’s that part of the response to this stuff that pisses me off. It is reflective of who you were,” Oliver said when Hoffman deflected his questions. “You’ve given no evidence to show that it didn’t happen. There was a period of time when you were creeping around women. It feels like a cop-out to say, ‘Well, this isn’t me.’ Do you understand how that feels like a dismissal?”
Now, Oliver is expressing a bit of regret about how he handled his moderator duties at the panel, saying that he ultimately “tried and failed” to instigate a meaningful conversation with the actor.
“It felt unavoidable and that we had to have a discussion about it,” Oliver explained on Britain’s The Russell Howard Hour. “It wasn’t ideal, but it became such a big story. But it became about my questions rather than his answers. The questions weren’t particularly remarkable, but his answers were … not great. That was the point of it. But it didn’t really go anywhere constructive, so the whole thing just made me feel sad.”
Oliver also said that once he signed on to moderate the panel, he told the event organizers that he was going to discuss the allegations with Hoffman, which they agreed to. “‘I understand you might not want your event to be about this, so you might want to get someone else,’ and they said, ‘No, no, no, we want you to do it,’” Oliver continued. “Then when [Hoffman] confirmed, I said, ‘I am going to ask him.’ So it was — a collision course was set at that point.” Three women have come forward to accuse Hoffman of sexual harassment this month, choosing to publicly discuss their experiences with NBC News.