While leading a Q&A prior to the 20th Anniversary screening of the political satire Wag the Dog on Monday night, HBO host John Oliver brought up the recent allegationsof sexual harassment made against actor Dustin Hoffman to a panel comprised of Robert De Niro, producer Jane Rosenthal, director Barry Levinson, and Hoffman himself. Needless to say, both the questions and answers became exceedingly tense as the panel wore on.
When Oliver asked the actor about a harassment allegation made by a 17-year-old production assistant working on the 1985 made-for-TV adaptation of Death of a Salesman, Hoffman told him, “First of all, it didn’t happen the way she reported.” According to Deadline, Oliver questioned the validity of Hoffman’s official response to the alleged harassment, a statement in which the actor said of his behavior: “It is not reflective of who I am.” Remarked Oliver, “It’s that part of the response to this stuff that pisses me off. It is reflective of who you were. 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?”‘
Per Deadline’s report, the audience at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan became increasingly vocal and divided as the almost 30-minute debate continued. Throughout the discussion, Hoffman maintained that he didn’t actually do anything wrong. “You’ve put me on display here,” the actor reportedly said. “You have indicted me…That’s not innocent until proven guilty.” At one point Hoffman reminded Oliver, “You weren’t there” when the alleged harassment took place, to which the Last Week Tonight host responded, “I’m glad.” Over on Twitter, The Washington Post writer Steven Zeitchik live-tweeted the conversation, and summed up the evening thusly: “All hell has now broken loose on this Wag The Dog panel.”