John Oliver Confronted Dustin Hoffman About Sexual Harassment Allegations, & Twitter Was Living for It

On Monday night, the 20th anniversary film screening of Wag the Dog turned into a heated discussion about Hollywood sexual misconduct, The Washington Post reports. Last Week Tonight host John Oliver led a panel of the film's stars, including producer Jane Rosenthal, director Barry Levinson, and actors Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman. Last month, Anna Graham Hunter publicly accused Hoffman of sexually harassing her when she was a 17-year-old intern on the set of Death of a Salesman, and Oliver was not about to let the allegations go undiscussed.

About halfway through the panel, Oliver called out Hoffman for his "insufficient" statements on the situation. Though the actor offered an apology at the time of the allegations, his words on the panel made it clear that the statement was more of a formality than a sincere admission of wrongdoing. His alleged inappropriate behavior was called into question by Oliver. "This is something we’re going to have to talk about because… it’s hanging in the air,” the host started bluntly.

In response to Oliver's probing questions, Hoffman tried to defend himself by claiming he doesn't know who Anna Graham Hunter is. Oliver suggested that there's no reason for an accuser to lie about sexual harassment, to which Hoffman wondered why Hunter waited until now to tell her story, when the alleged incident occurred in 1985. "I still don’t know who this woman is,” the actor said. “I never met her; if I met her it was in concert with other people.” 

Oliver boldly dismissed the actor's defense. "It’s ‘not reflective of who I am’ — it’s that kind of response to this stuff that pisses me off,” he 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?”

The remainder of the panel was dominated by the subject of sexual harassment, though audience members and Oliver himself tried to guide the conversation back to the film. When the debate continued, Oliver decided to explain his reasoning for bringing up the subject in the first place. "I can’t leave certain things unaddressed,” he explained. “The easy way is not to bring anything up. Unfortunately that leaves me at home later at night hating myself. ‘Why the…didn’t I say something? No one stands up to powerful men.’"

Though the Wag the Dog panel seems like an unlikely platform to host this significant conversation, people were not shy about sharing their support, especially on Twitter

The extended argument between Oliver and Hoffman was not fun, as Oliver pointed out, but it was vital for women and survivors everywhere. Oliver is keeping the conversation of sexual misconduct alive so that other women can confidently share their stories and other men can follow in his footsteps to defend them. The more people who are brave enough to stand up for women, the closer Hollywood and the whole nation will be to eliminating sexual harassment.