John Oliver and Dustin Hoffman got into a war of words during a panel intended to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Barry Levinson’s political satire “Wag the Dog.” The HBO late night host was moderating a panel in New York City on December 4 that included Hoffman, Levinson, Robert De Niro, and producer Jane Rosenthal, but the conversation turned intense when Oliver grilled Hoffman on a sexual assault allegation against him.
“This is something we’re going to have to talk about because…it’s hanging in the air,” Oliver said to Hoffman. Hoffman has been accused of sexual harassment by television producer and writer Wendy Riss Gatsiounis (“Reign,” “Genius”) and Anna Graham Hunter, who alleges Hoffman groped her and made inappropriate comments to her when she was a 17-year-old intern on the set of the 1985 TV movie “Death Of A Salesman.”
“It’s hanging in the air?” Hoffman responded. “From a few things you’ve read you’ve made an incredible assumption about me.” Referring to Hunter, the actor told Oliver that he “still had no idea who this woman is,” claiming that he has never met her and if he did, it was “in concert with other people.”
Oliver brought up Hoffman’s response to the allegation, in which the actor said the claims were not “reflective” of who he is.
“It’s that kind of response to this stuff that pisses me off,” Oliver said. “It is reflective of who you were. If you’ve given no evidence to show it didn’t [happen] then there was a period of time for a while when you were a creeper around women. It feels like a cop-out to say ‘it wasn’t me.’ Do you understand how that feels like a dismissal?”
“You weren’t there,” Hoffman replied, to which Oliver said, “I’m glad.”
“You’ve put me on display here,” Hoffman told Oliver. “You have indicted me…That’s not innocent until proven guilty.”
The actor later mentioned some of his films like “Tootsie” to show that he has respect for women: “I would not have made that movie if I didn’t have an incredible respect for women,” he said. “The theme of the movie is he became a better man by having been a woman…It’s shocking to me that you don’t see me more clearly.”
The panel was the second major public appearance by Hoffman following the sexual harassment allegations. He appeared in person at the Gotham Awards last week to receive a Special Tribute Award, but he was not asked to address the claims against him. Oliver said it would have been impossible for him not to press on the matter during the “Wag the Dog” conversation.
“I can’t leave certain things unaddressed,” Oliver said. “The easy way is not to bring anything up. Unfortunately that leaves me at home later at night hating myself. ‘Why the fuck didn’t I say something?’ No one stands up to powerful men.”