In February 2017, Canadian journalist Robyn Doolittle published Unfounded, her 20-month-long investigation into how police across Canada handle sexual assault allegations. Her work forced changes around the country, and prompted federal plans for better police training and oversight, including funds pledged to combating gender-based violence. In October 2017, American journalists Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor published their New York Times investigation into sexual abuses by Harvey Weinstein, which helped start the global #MeToo movement. In 2018, Twohey and Kantor were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for this work. Here, Twohey and Doolittle sit down with Canadian journalist Garvia Bailey on what it was like to publish their investigations, and what has happened since. Robyn Doolittle is a Globe and Mail investigative journalist. Her reporting on Mayor Rob Ford for the Toronto Star made headlines around the world, won the Michener Award for public service journalism, and her number-one bestselling book on the topic, Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story, earned her the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize. Her Unfounded series, which investigated how police services handle sexual assault cases, was one of the most viewed and read stories in the Globe's modern history. She was named Journalist of the Year in 2017 by the Canadian Centre for Journalism. Megan Towhey is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter with The New York Times and co-author of the book SHE SAID: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite A Movement. The book takes readers behind the scenes of Twohey's and Jodi Kantor's 2017 investigation of Harvey Weinstein, which helped trigger the global reckoning on sexual misconduct. Along with a team of reporters who exposed sexual harassment and abuse across industries, she was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2018. Twohey has reported on Donald J. Trump, helping to reveal allegations of sexual misconduct against him, his business interests in Russia and illegal efforts to silence two women who claimed they had affairs with him. Garvia Bailey is the co-founder of the Jazzcast.ca, a scrappy, smart, community driven platform for jazz enthusiasts and those who like to dig into the stories of the colourful musicians who inhabit that world. Before founding jazzcast, Bailey was host of Good Morning, Toronto on JazzFM.91, and prior to that spent 10 years with the CBC as an arts journalist/producer, and broadcaster. While with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Bailey served as the host of a variety of radio programs, including Big City Small World and Canada Live, as a columnist for Metro Morning and as a contributor at cbcmusic.ca, CBC Television, as well as a producer on the documentary programs Global Village and Outfront.
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Books by Robyn Doolittle
Had It Coming : What's Fair in the Age of #MeToo?
Crazy Town : The Rob Ford Story
Books by Megan Towhey
She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement
Other Related Materials
Unfounded: Why Police 1 in 5 Sexual Assault Claims as Baseless (Series from the Globe & Mail)
With Weinstein Conviction, Jury Delivers a Verdict on #MeToo (Article from the NY Times)
A Year of Reckoning (Article from the NY Times)
Live Mic: Best of TPL Conversations features curated discussions and interviews with some of today’s best-known and yet-to-be-known writers, thinkers and artists, recorded on stage at one of Toronto Public Library’s 100 branches.
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Live Mic: Best of TPL Conversations
On Civil Society: #MeToo
Gregory McCormick (GM): Welcome to Live Mic: Best of TPL Conversations, our regular Toronto Public Library podcast series featuring curated discussions and interviews with some of today’s best-known and yet-to-be-known writers, thinkers and artists, recorded on stage at one of Toronto Public Library’s 100 branches.
Garvia Bailey (GB): Thank you all for being here tonight. I am thrilled to be here with you, so many of you. Fantastic. Well done. Well done. Now, I'm gonna start at the beginning, before I introduce the incredible women that are with us tonight. Before there was Weinstein... Or is it Weinstein?
GB: It's stein. Before Weinstein, before Ghomeshi and Kavanaugh, before the word hashtag really entered into our everyday lexicon, there was Tarana Burke. And a couple of decades ago, in her living room in Alabama, Tarana created a space, a space that invited young women and girls to heal and confront and commiserate over the sexual violence they had experienced, and a movement was born. She called her group meetings with these young women, Me Too. She started it as a place of empathy. And to this day, as an architect of a movement, she still puts empathy front and centre when she talks about the worldwide Me Too movement. Tarana Burke is still doing the work as the Senior Director of Girls for Gender Equity in Brooklyn. She is not physically here, but she is here, if you know what I'm saying. You with me? Are we together on this?
[audience collective]: Yes.
GB: Okay. It's been increasingly clear that in order for Me Too to catch hold, in order for advocacy, for systemic change, for just some form of clarity around what Me Too means, and why it matters. In order for all of that to happen, we need the stories, the facts, the figures. We need exceptional journalism. Megan Twohey, and with her partner in journalism, Jodi Kantor, broke the story of Harvey Weinstein and his decades of sexual abuse, impropriety, and worse for the New York Times back in 2017. The two-year investigative effort won the journalists a Pulitzer Prize for public service, and is credited with bringing Me Too into the international zeitgeist. The careful reporting and the care in which the multiple layers of stories, confessions, cover-ups, secrets, heartbreaking admissions, 80 women eventually came forward with allegations. They were all handled, prompted... They were all handled with such care, and women and men worldwide started to confront a culture of silence and abuse of power in all kinds of work environments. She said, "Breaking the sexual harassment story that helped ignite a movement is a fascinating story behind the reporting." Wow. So much to talk about. Megan Twohey is here. Come on out, Megan.
GB: Now, Robyn Doolittle... Robyn Doolittle is a 2017 national newspaper awards Journalist of the Year, not the first nor the last of the prizes she has won for her work in investigative journalism. Her Unfounded series for the Globe and Mail set out to answer one question: "How were police departments across Canada handling sexual assault complaints?" The answer to that question proved elusive, troublingly elusive, yet she persisted. Over 20 months of tireless, meticulous sensitive work, led to not only an award-winning series, national in scope, but it led to systemic changes in the way police across Canada, the courts, governments and the general public view sexual assault. Her latest book, Had it Coming, goes even deeper. Statistics, the science of the brain's reaction to trauma, what constitutes consent, how do we move these difficult conversations forward; it's all there. It's the big picture. Robyn Doolittle.
GB: Such a pleasure to see both... You've both been very, very busy. So thank you for coming by here in your busy schedules. I wanna go all the way back right now to... And you can answer this question either on a personal level or on a professional level, but your introduction to Me Too. Do you remember when you first saw the hashtag kind of pop up, when it sort of entered into your consciousness? I'll start with you, Megan.
Megan Twohey (MT): Yeah. I have a complete vivid recollection of the moment when I first saw the Me Too hashtag, at least I was aware of it. But when I saw it for the first time on my own Facebook page, it was, I think, a couple of weeks after we broke the Weinstein story. And you have to recall that, when we were leading up to the publishing of that story, we had no idea what the impact would be. In fact, there was this one night, two nights before the story was published, we've been working around the clock to try to make sure that the story was airtight. We were going up against Weinstein's final tactics as he was trying to fight us and kill the story. And so, we were so obsessed with making sure that everything was just right in the story that we weren't really contemplating what the impact might be. So, finally, at like, 1 o'clock in the morning, we were at the newsroom and we said, "Listen, we've got to actually... We gotta go home. We gotta get some sleep." So Jodi and I hopped a taxi back to Brooklyn. And in the silence of the cab, we finally had a moment to turn to each other and we said, "Do you think anybody's gonna read this story?"
MT: Which just goes to show that we really had no idea what the ripple effects might be. So fast forward... Well, first of all, fast forward like three days later, when after the story broke and our phones and emails were flooded with women who were coming to us, not with stories just about Harvey Weinstein, but about their own stories of abuse and neglect in all different types of industries. And that was the first sense of like, "Okay, something's happening here." And then it was about a week-and-a-half later, that I finally took a break from work late one night and went on my own Facebook page and was scrolling through and saw my own, people from my own family, colleagues, friends from all different stages of my life sharing their own stories under the Me Too hashtag. Which, as you rightly point out, had begun with Tarana Burke, but was just catching on fire. And I will say, as a reporter who has worked so hard to try to bring these stories to light and has known how difficult it was to get women to go public, and go on the record, to see even just all these people in my own life telling their own stories, it brought tears to my eyes.
GB: Of course. Yeah.
MT: It was... Yeah, it was very moving.
GB: What about you, Robyn? Do you remember?
Robyn Doolittle (RD): Yeah. I had a similar experience, I think, seeing the hashtag take off. I, like everyone else in the world, was totally gripped by Jodi and Megan's reporting and watching these stories break, and finally seeing this moment where people who had been silent for so long were speaking out. And as a journalist, you tend to sometimes get stuck in this bubble of you're just interacting with journalists and political people, like really boring people basically, right? Not real people in some ways, the Twitter people. And it was when people outside of my news bubble were really, were posting the hashtag and writing on Facebook about their experiences. And you just saw this release of anger, I think, and frustration, and like, "We've had enough." That was when it was like, "Wow, this is amazing." By that point, I'd spent three years very immersed in this topic, and I really thought that I had a really good handle on a lot of the issues that we would come to be talking about. But as I watched Me Too unfold over those months, that's when it just became so interesting to recognize the full weight of this cultural reckoning that we're all dealing with right now.
GB: Absolutely. It's interesting, Megan, in reading the book, it really... I don't know who's gonna play you in the movie, but... [chuckle] because it was so filmic in the way that it... Not to make light of the subject matter, but it really felt like this was a machine that was full steam down the track, and it was so immensely readable to see the behind the scenes. So, I wonder about the genesis of the book then after the whole situation happens. Why did you wanna take us into that space?
MT: Yeah. Well, for a couple of reasons. I think, to begin with, we recognize because Me Too has come to mean so much to so many people. We really welcome the opportunity to bring readers behind the scenes to ground zero of our investigation to have a front row seat to watch how it all played out in real time. And so much of our reporting, so much of what happened, there was obviously a lot of drama that played out in the articles that we wrote, in the pages of the New York Times. But, the drama that played out behind the scenes was almost more intense. And so a lot of that was off the record, as is the case with investigative, so much of investigative reporting. So, we really wanted to... We worked very hard in the course of reporting this book to get all of that onto the record so that readers could be with us in those first-touch conversations with actresses who were starting to open up about their stories of these horrifying encounters with Weinstein. Even as they were terrified to go on the record, we wanted them to be there when sort of a deep-throat figure of the Weinstein investigation. Harvey's corporate accountant of 30 years...
GB: What a character.
MT: Slipped us internal company records.
MT: Completely. And also be there in the final days when Harvey was barging into the New York times trying to stop us with his high-priced lawyers. And so I think that there was no question that we wanted to bring all of that onto the record. We also recognized that in that first story, we had been able to connect some of the dots of this alleged predator...
MT: And how he'd been able to cover his tracks. But we really, in the reporting of this book, were able to pull back the curtain on the machinery that was in place to silence women. And ultimately, this became an x-ray into abusive power. And so, there were so many broader themes; the individuals and institutions that became complicit in his abuse. And also just the back stories of some of these remarkable sources who ultimately went on the record when there was nothing foreseen about that this was... That things would play out as it has. These are really significant, wrenching decisions that these women made.
GB: And it's interesting, you speak as well to, it's not just Weinstein, there's also the story of Christine Blasey Ford, there is... Which is to me, just a mind-blowing story because we see what we see in the media and this speaks to the power of what you do. What you see is sort of a version of events, and then to read what actually happened behind the scenes with her. We're gonna get to that, we're gonna talk about that.
MT: Yeah, yeah. I'm glad, yes, yeah.
GB: But, I want to ask you, Robyn, about this incredibly nuanced book that you've come out with that leaves as many questions as there are answers. That's the beauty of it. And also the frustration. What prompted you to start looking at that... I talked about the fact that empirical data is something that is so needed in so many of these situations because people, it becomes very... People become very invested in the emotional data that we're collecting, but the empirical data. Why did you take this, this form... This idea that formed your thesis for Unfounded? Why did you wanna go a little bit deeper with this, with Had it Coming?
RD: I hope someone writes "frustrating" as a GoodReads review on Had it Coming, at some point.
GB: It was frustrating, but in a great way.
RD: It's nuanced and frustrating, yeah.
GB: Do you want me to write it?
RD: Yeah, that'd be great, actually. That'd be great.
GB: I'll do it. Yeah.
RD: Yeah. So I started working on Unfounded in 2015 because everywhere I went in this city, I kept having the same conversation over and over again about Jian Ghomeshi. Jian Ghomeshi was, of course, the first signs in Canada of this cultural reckoning that was happening. And everyone just kinda kept saying the same thing, that the justice system is rigged against sexual assault victims. And I wanted to find out if that was true. And what I was essentially trying to do was quantify rape culture. I didn't wanna do an investigation where I just strung together a bunch of anecdotes because that had been done before, nothing had ever changed. And this is what led to this, collecting this statistic that I'd never heard of before, which meant that someone has complained that they were sexually assaulted and police have stamped it with, "No you weren't." It's not, "We couldn't find the person." It's not, "There wasn't enough evidence to lay a charge." It was, "This is a false or baseless claim." That's whatUnfounded means.
GB: That's a real term. I mean, it's used... Yeah.
RD: It's a real thing, yeah. And it was secret before the Globe's investigation now forces Statistics Canada to collect this stat and release it. And what I found was that one in five cases were being dumped as an invalid accusation, which does a whole bunch of things about skewing stats and whatnot, that is a conversation for another day. But the point was, is when I was then investigating specific cases to understand why they were going off the rails, the only explanation you can come up with is that, "Police officers, because they're people, were harbouring rape myths and stereotypes." These outdated ideas about gender and sex and what real victims behave like, and power. And they weren't hearing these claims that were very disturbing and putting their full investigative muscle behind them. Routine things, like interviewing witnesses, trying to find a suspect, sending evidence off for forensic testing, collecting surveillance footage; were not being done at all in many of the cases that I looked at. And so when Me Too broke, I think that that's what I saw, again, was this question of like, "Why does this continue to happen?" And that's rape culture. And rape culture is a term that I think some people hear and maybe they're either like, "Yeah, let's talk about rape culture." Or, they're like, "Oh my God, rape culture."
GB: Totally freaked out, yeah, yeah.
RD: And so that's what I wanted to do in this book, is unpack rape myths and stereotypes, understand where they come from, why they still exist, how we can talk about them in a way that's not gonna completely turn off our old curmudgeonly Uncle Bob, who complains about false allegations at Thanksgiving dinner.
GB: Sorry, Bob, if you're here.
RD: [chuckle] That was the genesis. That was a long answer, but that's... Yeah.
GB: When you talk about rape myths and stereotypes, so you do something that I thought that was very brave in opening up this, your book, with your own myths and stereotypes, the things that we're already in... This is something that's internalized with us and you open up the book by saying, "Look, I have my own hang-ups."
RD: Yeah, 'cause that's the hardest thing, is interrogating ourselves. And when I was doing this reporting and thinking about a book and how I wanted to start, and I knew I wanted to talk about rape culture, and the only fair way to do it, was I think, to say, "We all have this stuff inside of us. It's woven into us." So when I was researching, Had it Coming, I came across the Kobe Bryant case, and I was re-reading all the police documents related to it. And there was a ton of physical evidence in that case that made that a very compelling allegation, including the fact that Kobe Bryant had blood on his shirt after the alleged incident, the sexual assault nurse examiners had documented lacerations in her vaginal area consistent with vaginal trauma. She reported it right away, immediately, tearfully, upset; all the things that we want a real sexual assault victim to do.
RD: He lied initially that they had had sex, until the police said, "Oh, we have physical evidence that shows that you had intercourse." And then he was like, "Oh actually, okay, we did, but she was the one that started it." There was tons of compelling evidence. And at the time, I remember being 18 and hearing about it and thinking, "Well, what did she think going to a hotel room with an NBA player?" Why was that my thought? She was practically my age. This was a girl who worked at a hotel. I worked at a hotel in a small town, like her. And unpacking that, why was that my instinct to not just doubt her, but blame her in some way? And not understand the full scope of the... I didn't look into any of that information about the case and the evidence against him, I just heard that there was a sexual assault claim made against a basketball player.
GB: Yeah. That question actually goes deeper, too, to... In reading, Megan, your book, it was really interesting that this was not done... It wasn't just you and Jodi, this was a team effort. And with a team like that at The New York Times, I am sure that you were confronting some of those same myths, some of those same internalizings, even maybe within yourself as well. But when it becomes something that involves the lawyers, and your senior... And your editor, and your publisher, and your... And it all... Did you find that there was some... That you had to push a little bit hard? Did you confront that kind of internalized thing that we're talking about?
MT: I actually had to push on myself, not my colleagues. But to... Robyn, to talk about your own stereotypes that you may not even identify until they're staring you in the face. When I first... So Jodi, started the Weinstein investigation before me, I was on maternity leave. And I had done a lot of reporting on sex crimes in the past, and I had worked in Chicago and did a lot of reporting on untested rape kits and victims of sex abusing doctors. And oftentimes, the women that I was reporting on were from sort of more disenfranchised demographics. But, the reporting was impactful. The people that I wrote about, some of those people went to prison, the laws changed, all the rape kits came out of storage to be tested. So I felt like... I felt really committed to this type of reporting. But, when I came back to the New York Times from maternity leave, and Jodi was filling me in on the initial stages of the Weinstein investigation, she was saying like, "Listen, I've started to collect these stories from Gwyneth Paltrow and Ashley Judd." And I will confess, as an investigative reporter, one of the pillars of investigative reporting is to try to give voice to the voiceless.
MT: To afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. And I will confess that I had a hard time conceiving of Gwyneth Paltrow as a victim who was in need of the help of the New York Times. And so, I actually struggled with some initial kind of doubt. Not doubt that bad things had happened in these hotel rooms that were framed as work meetings, which was... We also encountered a lot of sentiments along the way from people who would say like, "Why were these women going to the hotel rooms to meet Harvey Weinstein?" Not recognizing that they often had faxes from their agents saying, "You gotta report to this meeting, this work meeting in Weinstein's hotel room." So, I will... Yeah, I will say that I had a little bit of doubt and I took a day to think about whether or not I actually wanted to join the investigation. And so... But, Jodi had made a case to me, she had said, "Listen, if this is actually... If this is happening to women with sort of celebrity and prestige and resources, it suggests that nobody is immune. And if we're able to break this story and help bring it to light, that we may be able to make an impact." And so...
GB: So does the story though happen without the Gwyneth Paltrow and the Rose McGowan and all of that? Does it... Because, there is this thing with the... Because celebrity was attached to it, this really did explode in a way that was... That might've been much smaller if it had been Cindy in accounting, who's been dealing with this same guy. Do you know what I'm saying?
MT: Well, and it's worth noting that in our first Weinstein story, there were two women on the record. We had accumulated a body of evidence that went beyond women just telling their stories on the record, but we did have two women on the record. We had Ashley Judd, she was the only actress to go on the record in that first story.
GB: She became my hero in your book.
MT: She was pretty significant.
GB: I wanna go to her farm, yeah.
MT: And, yeah. We had had this sort of fantasy that all these actresses who had been whispering their stories to us would ultimately link hands and jump on the record together. And in the end, that was not the case. We had to ask Ashley Judd to be the only actress, and she actually got that phone call. She was at the dentist when we called and said, "Will you please come on as the... Will you please come on to the record? There's no any... We had hoped that there would be other actresses, there aren't. Nobody else is going on the record." And she said, "I need a day to think about it." And she went for a run. She's Christian, she prayed to her God. And she came back and said, "I'm prepared to be a named source," which was a really significant moment for us.
GB: Yeah, that's huge.
MT: But, there was another woman who was on the record. Ashley has received a lot of attention, but the other woman on the record was a woman... There was a second category of alleged victims. There were the women who had gone to work for Weinstein's companies, often right out of college. They'd worked as assistants, they had worked as junior executives. Going to work for Weinstein was like basically your entrance into the world of the entertainment industry if you wanted to work behind the scenes. And so, all too often, they had also seen their professional ambitions turned against them and had been preyed on by the boss.
MT: And so in the end, there was a woman named Laura Madden who had never been heard of. She had basically disappeared from the entertainment industry following her alleged sexual assault by Weinstein. And she was living a very quiet life in Wales. She was a mother, a stay-at-home mom. And she was actually the very first woman to go on the record. She brought her daughters together. She told them, finally told them about what had happened to her when she was in her early 20s. The daughter started opening up about their own experiences and what their friends had gone through, and were so encouraging and supporting of her. And so she was actually the first person to go on the record. And we always point that out because these actresses have gotten so much attention, but I think that there is really a version of this where actually none of them went on the record in the first place. And there's no doubt that the fact that they did go on the record, I think made a difference going... Opening up... There's so many reasons not to talk to a reporter about this, and the culture has been such that I think for many of these victims, there had been feelings of shame that had gone around along with this.
GB: Of course.
MT: And a feeling that they were... That it would just be so embarrassing to put themselves out there. And so, I do think that you can't deny the fact that once so many of these actresses did go on the record, that it did make a difference in, at least, sort of communicating, "Listen, this has happened to even the kind of most polished women in society." Nobody is... It was true, nobody was immune.
GB: And the flood gates did open for both of you once you started doing this reporting, because you both write about the fact that you can't, as a reporter, go down every rabbit hole and chase every lead. And what happened during the release of both your reporting was a cathartic thing that happened. And I think a lot of women and men, who had suffered in some way, were looking for justice and looking for a voice. And they came to you, both of you, in floods. So that speaks to the perceived power of the press in these situations. So how did you handle that onslaught, and what were the things... I'm sure it was heartbreaking to have to deal with these individuals that now in this moment, are saying, "Can you tell my story as well?" How difficult was that for you, Robyn?
RD: Unfounded was published, first broken February 2017. And not a single week has gone by, where I don't get emails or phone calls from primarily women, sometimes their mothers, asking me to write about a botched police investigation. I could make this my beat for the rest of my life. And let me tell you the absolute hardest thing you'll ever have to do as a journalist, is tell someone that the worst thing that's ever happened to them is not newsworthy, or a public interest. And it's... Not that you would ever say that specifically, but that is what you're doing. And with Unfounded, what I tried to do was bundle... As an investigative reporter, I see real power in coming at a story with the full brunt of the Globe and Mail and the investigative power of the Globe and Mail. And we put 54 specific stories out there, we collected statistics from 873 police jurisdictions individually, and that's what led to systemic change. And so what's the next frontier? What's the next thing we can do as opposed to just kind of reporting on another, another? 'Cause what you wanna not do is get in the situation of writing rape porn.
RD: And that's what I really find sometimes with some of the journalism in this that's not so great is it's like, just rehashing horrible incidents, over and over again. To what end? So when I was trying to write about this in the book and figuring out, "What do I wanna write about?" It was, "What's next?" So we've had Me Too, we've had this reform in Canada around this huge overhaul of how police handle sexual assault cases. And what I really wanted to get at was, "Okay well, what do we do with these big questions we have to deal with now? What do you do with people who have committed harm? What do you do with this redemption question? What do you do with the fact that so many people... I've been doing book events now for two months and I always get questions about this, either in my email after, or people coming up to me afterwards, especially men. This fear of being falsely accused, is very real. Where do men fit into this conversation? How do we make sure that... I think that we need to make sure that they feel included and have a voice while also understanding that it's their time to listen. That's a very difficult balancing act.
RD: How do we deal with this fact that due process has become a politically charged word when it shouldn't be? We should be able to say that a person who's been victimized has an absolute right to speak out, to be heard, to have their claim taken seriously. If somebody's been accused has a right to defend themself? Sure, that's the... That shouldn't be... It shouldn't be either...
GB: That shouldn't be a debate.
RD: It shouldn't be a debate.
GB: There's no way, yeah.
RD: And how do we navigate this cultural moment? I interviewed for the book, and he's never spoken before, Robin Camp, the judge who famously said to a sexual assault complainant, "Why didn't she just keep her... Why didn't you just keep your knees together if you didn't wanna be penetrated?" He was, of course, put on a very public disciplinary hearing, was ultimately recommended that he be removed from the bench, which is extremely rare, and he quit before that happened. But in the course of that hearing, he went through... I don't know how else to call it. Like, sensitivity training. He was mentored by a female judge, he got a crash course in sexism in Canadian sexual assault law; this was an oil and gas lawyer who was thrown into criminal trials with no specialized training. And he did, and I believe him, have an evolution of thought and coming to understand how he had these outdated ideas and where they came from. And I wanted to know, how do you change an old white guy from South Africa's mind? And these are the questions that we need to be dealing with right now, and there's really no easy answer.
GB: Well, that's the messy part, right?
RD: That's the frustrating part.
GB: That's the frustrating part in all of this. In all the ways that this movement and what this is have been misunderstood, or misconstrued, or people being forced to take a defensive position as opposed to a, "Let's all have this conversation," kind of position. I think it was Jodi who said that there are three questions around Me Too that remain unresolved, right?
MT: Yeah. Yeah.
GB: Do you wanna go through what those are?
MT: Yeah, that's what we... Yeah, we've said, we've said that. Yeah, no. And we actually, we felt like another thing that we did in our book is that we could've... We felt like it would've been easy to stop at the moment when we pushed publish and the dam broke and all of the tips came flooding in and the silence was shattered. And that would've been actually a really high moment, an easy moment for us to end on, but we really pushed through with our reporting into the year that followed, as the Me Too movement took off in earnest and things got more complicated and more messy. And we were actually fortunate enough to... We weren't sure how we were gonna end our book. And we were watching as we... 'Cause we had gone off on book leave as things were playing out. And then, when Christine Blasey Ford stepped forward and testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about her experience with Brett Kavanaugh back in the 1980s, we thought, "Oh my goodness, we've got to report on this." And we were lucky enough to have, at the time, kind of an insider track to her legal team that allowed us some unique access as she was testifying.
MT: And then a couple months afterwards, I flew out to Palo Alto and obtained the first interview of her after she had testified. And she showed up to the breakfast with her baseball hat pulled down over her eyes, she was still living in hiding because of security threats. And so once we were able to... Listen, so many people, millions of people watched the testimony, her testimony that day. And some people walked away thinking she was the hero of the Me Too movement, and other people walked away thinking that she was the villain. That really became, that particular case, at least in the United States, became a real vehicle for the backlash as well.
GB: That's right.
MT: And so we really thought... And once we sat down and started talking to her, we realized and started piecing together the backstory of her private path to testifying in Washington, we realized it was so much more complicated than either side knew. And we also recognized that it really came to encompass what we think are sort of these three unresolved questions that until we are able to come to some sort of resolution on collectively, I think we will continue to face a lot of frustration and confusion. And the first question is: What is the scope of behavior that's under scrutiny? Are we only talking about serious allegations of rape and sexual harassment or are we talking about more nuanced encounters?
GB: Are we talking about Aziz Ansari?
MT: Yeah, are we talking about Aziz Ansari, and how far back are we going? Christine Blasey Ford was trying to hold the Supreme Court... Was seeking to hold the Supreme Court nominee responsible for something that happened in the 1980s in high school that had never previously been reported. The second question was... The second question is: What is our process for vetting these allegations that have flooded into public view? We know at the New York Times, and we describe it in great detail in our book, we know the process that we follow before we publish these allegations. All of the extent we go to seek corroboration and going to the accused to give them adequate time to respond in the name of fairness, in the name of accuracy. But what about in HR departments around the world? And what about even in the court of public opinion, what is our process for getting to the bottom of what's happened?
MT: And I think the third question is, the question of accountability. It's so easy for people in this Me Too era to insist on accountability, but it's so much more difficult to assign. And I think that these questions are so significant and often get scrambled. So for example, Al Franken in the United States, almost the moment that he resigned, there was debate over whether or not that was a mistake and whether or not that was the right thing to happen to him. That's sorta question number three, before there'd been any consensus on question number two: What he had actually done? And so, we really think that it's so clear that there's a lot more work to be done to come up with the new rules, the new and consistent rules on sex and power since these old ones are being swept away. But we also feel like we're not... We're not activists, we're not lawmakers, we're not HR officials, we're journalists. And we also feel like you can't solve a problem that you can't see. And so at least I think that the role that we can play is to continue to try to pry these stories into the light so at least we know what we've all been dealing with in order to move forward.
GB: And it is... They're complicated questions, all three. And one of the questions that kept popping into my mind is that there is this... Leaving aside the criminal part of sexual harassment, rape culture, all of that, and moving into sort of this moral weirdness, which is where I think this... We're all kind of struggling with that part of it, the moral part of it. Not everything is criminal, not everything is harassment, but some actions are morally wrong. And so, what are the conversations that when we leave this space, the conversations that we need to be having around that moral piece of it? Because that is the one that sits in the lap of society, that's the question that... I think the criminal part of things, we can clearly... There are mechanisms flawed as many of them are.
RD: They're getting better.
GB: They're getting better, right? And like I said, the empirical part of it, you can find all the evidence, but it's those moral things that sit with us and I don't know.
MT: Yeah. Listen, I would point out, I think, it's really important. Harvey Weinstein's going on criminal trial in New York in January. And I think people would be astounded to take... Once they get a close look at this criminal case. Because even though there have been more than 80 women who have come forward with allegations against him in the last two years, the vast majority of those were allegations of sexual harassment, which is illegal under civil law. But nobody's ever gonna go to jail for it, you're not gonna be criminally charged with sexual harassment. A lot of those allegations fall outside... A lot of the criminal allegations fall outside the statute of limitations. And so this criminal case, more than 80 women later, is based on the accounts of two victims. It's based on two alleged assaults, and there's no guarantees that he's going to be criminally convicted.
MT: In fact, the prosecution has really stumbled along the way to trial, the lead detective was ousted for police misconduct. And we really think that... But the defense has also stumbled and I think that... I think it's just... I'm not making any predictions, but I'm just saying that I think that there is a chance that he could be acquitted. And I think that people have a really hard time... You talk about the distinction between the criminal and just sort of the moral violations in society. And think that there's a real danger that if he were acquitted, that he would be able to kind of walk onto the public stage and say, "I'm innocent, see. I was acquitted. I'm innocent." And that maybe there would even be people in society... We can't believe the number of times that we've engaged with... That Jodi and I have sat across from people who are interviewing us and don't seem to grasp that you can basically be guilty of wrong doing and not be convicted or charged in criminal court.
GB: Right, absolutely.
MT: And so, it's gonna be very interesting to... We're gonna be watching so closely and really trying to make sure that we help frame the coverage of this criminal trial going into January.
RD: I spent a lot of time in my book dealing with this ethical moral issue. I kind of basically, over and over again, argue, "We need to get away from the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system is not going to fix Me Too for us." There's a whole bunch of reasons why I think this needs to happen, besides just the fact that so many of these allegations are not criminal. You look at Patrick Brown, for example. In my reading of those allegations, there's a power imbalance there. It's not illegal to be an asshole.
RD: Okay? It's not illegal to badger someone into having sex with you, if they ultimately agree. This is why the Aziz Ansari story was so, I think, crucial in this moment. And I write about it a lot and come back to it several times because my thinking kept evolving. But when I first saw that story, my gut reaction was, "I don't know what I think about this." There were a lot of journalistic problems with that story that tainted my feelings around it. But let's pretend it was perfectly reported and we believe everything. This was essentially a woman who said that she went on a date with this famous comedian and afterwards, they were back in his apartment, and he essentially just kinda kept chasing her around the apartment for various sexual acts. And she went along with them, but she didn't feel comfortable, she didn't wanna do it. She gave him non-verbal cues that she wasn't interested. She'd say things like, "Can we chill?" And he'd go, "Absolutely." And they would go sit on the couch and then he'd try again, and she'd go along with it. But she just came away from the experience feeling awful about it, and ultimately that she felt that this constituted a sexual assault. I think this is a stretch to say, "It's a sexual assault," but it doesn't make it right.
RD: And that's what this is about. But when we just get so obsessed with, "Is it criminal or not?" What ends up happening is, whenever there's an allegation, you'll notice the go-to line from the crazy men's rights activists is, "Well, if this is true, then why didn't she report it to the police?"
GB: To the police, yeah.
MT: That's a Donald Trump favourite line, by the way.
RD: Perfect, thank you. Yeah.
MT: I've heard it many times when I was reporting on him.
RD: When you see the Patrick Brown thing, what are they supposed to say? Like, "Officer, my boss is an asshole." This is not the... In Canada, and if there's any lawyers in the room, you can correct me. But it is... I'm not even sure there actually is a civil tort with sexual assault. There's a case working through the system right now I believe that might establish it, or that's been recently established.
RD: But it's not even really there. So what do you do with sexual harassment... Sorry, the tort of sexual harassment? So this is why we need to be interrogating this from a moral and ethical situation. And if there's one more thing I can say, which was kind of a weird timing. Steve Paikin, who was accused of trying to extort sex by a Toronto politician, Sarah Thomson. The day that I'd scheduled my interview with him was the day of the Ford testimony, and I walked into his office...
GB: Oh my gosh. [laughter]
RD: For the interview, and it was playing in the background. And I was like, "So... "
RD: "What do you think about this?" So that was... Anyway, weird timing, yeah.
GB: Awesome, it's been the timing. It is... Am I running out of time already?
GB: Okay, okay, because we have so much. I have like pages and pages.
RD: She's got pages, she's got pages.
GB: You guys have to come over to my house or something, you can all come.
RD: We can do that later, yeah.
GB: I have a very small living room. It's very small, but you can all fit.
RD: It's Toronto housing, so it's like... Yeah.
GB: It's fine, it's fine. That is a... Tarana Burke talks about this in a really interesting way. She talks about this, this sexual violence, this place that we're in right now, this thing that we're grappling with. If it was made a public health crisis... Because I think... I kinda feel like we're in this kind of crisis place in not being able to articulate or clear up some of this, the moral part of it. I think back to the Civil Rights Movement, and I think that we haven't eradicated racism, we haven't eradicated inequality, but we have put into place these safeguards. But it hasn't erased anything. But will... I'm just wondering if this is the kind of conversation that we'll have when your kids are 18 and 20 years old, when your girls are 20 years old, that we've dealt with this in a way that makes some kind of sense. Does it feel like we're marching towards any of that?
RD: Yeah. I think the Harvey Weinstein investigation is what really cracked open... You can't solve a problem unless you see it. And that is really I think what gave a name to something that had been happening for a while, and having that name is really powerful. But you see Bill Cosby, the Bill O'Reilly investigation; this has been happening, right? So, the path forward is going to take a long time, too. The fact that we're having these conversations, I think is... This is... There's no getting around it, there's no shortcut. We have got to sort out these big questions. What I think... There's a lot of encouraging things that are happening for sure in terms of... It's no longer politically correct to not care. If you're a big company getting complaints, that said... There's been some really troubling surveys done of the workforce, and of executives. I think something like 95% of executives in Canada do not feel that sexual harassment is a problem in their workplace.
RD: They did a poll of men... So as Megan mentioned, the real question here, if you polled the country: "Are you pro-rape? Are you pro-sexual assault? Are you pro-sexual harassment?" People are going to say, "No." Where we differ is what crosses the line, that's what we're trying to sort out and negotiate right now. And they did a poll of men like, "What kind of behavior is appropriate at the workplace?" Millennial men, okay, my people. One in five think a boss kissing an employee on the cheek is fine, an uninvited shoulder rub is fine, looking at porn at work is fine.
RD: It's like, "Where have you been, guys?" So this is what we're up against. And there has been a real backlash. And I think part of the problem with the backlash is that Me Too has become so politicized that, again, it's either, "I believe survivors all the time." Or, "Me Too too far."
RD: There's a war on men. And it's not that simple. And I kept thinking about... The Daily did this wonderful episode on abortion and how abortion was not politicized until the right realized that, "Oh, if we politicize abortion, then we can whip everybody up on all these other issues." Because as people, we're all tribal, we wanna belong to community. And when we're part of a community, we wanna believe everything about that community is perfect and right. So that just means that your views on immigration can dictate your views on Me Too.
GB: Right, right.
RD: And that's what we need to get away from. We need to pluck Me Too out of this culture war that we're having, no idea how to do that, that can be someone else's book.
RD: But until we do that, we're gonna be in trouble.
GB: I read some statistics about this backlash that... Researchers conducted a survey in early 2019, and this is some of the stats that they came out with that: "90% of men say they were reluctant to hire attractive women." This is around the backlash, the Me Too backlash. That, "21% said that they were reluctant to hire women for jobs involving close interpersonal interactions with men." Say, you need to go to New York with your co-worker for a conference that they did not feel comfortable doing that and didn't wanna do it. And 27% said they avoided one-on-one meetings with female colleagues, which means you want a male mentor. You're coming up in your... And they say, "Well, I can't, I can't, I can't.
RD: This is the part we all go, "Oh my God, why?"
GB: It's really... It's a true backlash.
RD: I know, I know, yeah. I know.
GB: And so I wonder about how we start to grapple with that, and what next in the way that you all report what we're doing about that?
MT: Yeah, I would... I do think that the question... Listen, I think cultural attitudes and trying to shape cultural attitudes is really essential in moving forward, but I also feel like there are systemic issues that we are still facing and we have not fixed. There was a moment in the summer of 2017 when we were doing the Weinstein investigation, and there was a young woman who had worked in Weinstein's company, she'd worked in Miramax in 1990, right out of college, one of these young women who had gone to work for him straight out of college with the hopes of breaking into Hollywood. And she had disappeared from the company following an alleged sexual assault, she disappeared. And I had gotten a line on where she worked in another city, and was trying to reach out to her; she wasn't responding. And so I realized that she had a family member who lived outside of New York. And so I drove out to this family member's house and I brought with me a handwritten card that I was gonna give to the family member explaining who I was, and what Jodi and I were working on and asking if she could pass it along to the woman, if this family member could pass it along to the woman.
MT: And when I got there and knocked on the door, the person who answered was actually the woman herself from 1990. And she said... She just looked at me kind of like, she had like a deer in the lights look. And she said, "First of all, I can't believe you found me." And then the second thing she said is, "I've been waiting for this knock on my door for 25 years." And yet, she was legally prohibited from telling me what had happened to her. She turned out to be one of as many as 12 women who had been silenced through secret settlements that Weinstein had paid out, not just from 1990, all the way up through 2015. These secret settlements are used every single day, even two years later, in cases of sexual harassment, in some cases of sexual assault. Not just in the United States, but here in Canada.
GB: Here in Canada, yeah, absolutely.
MT: Also often, women would go to attorneys following an incident because they wanna do something about it, they wanna hold that person accountable, and they're often told that their best, if not only option, is to accept money in exchange for silence. And the restrictive clauses that go along with these secret settlements will make your jaws drop. These women can't tell colleagues about what's happened, they can't tell family members. If they wanna talk to a therapist, the therapist has to sign a confidentiality clause. And while nobody would argue... And certainly if a reporter comes knocking, they absolutely cannot say anything or else they can suffer serious financial penalties.
MT: And so I think that it's important... Nobody would argue in 2019 that victims shouldn't receive financial recompense for what they've happened, but I think we also need to have a serious public debate about whether or not these are actually addressing sexual harassment and sexual assault or helping to hide it and helping cover it up. Weinstein, Bill O'Reilly, Larry Nassar, so many alleged predators. If you really take a hard look at their past, have used these secret settlements to cover their tracks and go on and allegedly hurt more people. And two years after breaking the Weinstein story, those secret settlements are being signed every single day.
GB: It's a lot.
MT: It's a lot. It's a lot. It's a lot. Yes.
GB: It's a lot. I thought that we were gonna wrap a big bow around this and walk out of here like, "We solved it, y'all."
RD: There's still time. We've got questions.
GB: That's true, we do have questions. So much of the work that you've done, Robyn, has moved the needle. And that is something... That is a legacy piece. I mean, the both of you are looking at legacy pieces here in your lives. I know that you are... I struggled with asking you this question in this way...
RD: Go there.
GB: And I'll tell you why I struggled with it.
GB: Because I thought to myself, "Would I ask a man the same question?" And then I said to myself, "Garvia, yes you would." Yeah, you would. So, I'm gonna ask you around the legacy of the work that you're doing. You both have young daughters. I, myself, have an 18-year-old daughter who just started university. And let me tell you, all of your book-learning resonating in my mind as I talked to her as she moved to move out of our house. So I think about legacy in terms of how you want to... Your needle is being pushed, like I said. What is the thing that makes you most proud about what you've done, but also the thing that you wish you could've done better in this? Those are big questions.
RD: Those are big questions.
GB: You don't have to answer them.
RD: You're good. I like it.
GB: But... You know.
MT: You encouraged that one, Robyn.
RD: Yeah. Do you know what I did?
GB: She really did. She did.
RD: Do you know what's funny, actually? Two years ago, you guys were in town for something. And I had to interview Jodi at an event, not unlike this, and I asked her a similar question. Jodi has done so much reporting also on breastfeeding and access. And a woman came up to me afterwards and was quite upset with me for asking it. She's like, "You never would've asked a man that." I said, "I definitely would've asked a man that, but... " Just my little rants, first. But it does no... For women in the audience, we can talk about balancing motherhood and work because it does not help us to pretend it's not a huge toll, but we do need to also talk to men about it.
RD: Yeah, let's applaud for that, yeah. Be like, "Everything's fine, there's not puke underneath my dress tonight. This is fine."
GB: But there's also the weight of it, though.
RD: The weight. And this is the thing that... So when I started doing this reporting, I did not have children, and now I have two daughters. I have a two-year-old and a three-month-old, and it has added an urgency to this issue and a fear that I did not understand before. And the other... I guess the thing that... I mean, I'm very proud... The Globe's Unfounded investigation was a unicorn story. Everything, as a piece of journalism, everything came together. It landed at a time when the culture was primed for it. It just, it was... It created immense change that I will be proud of to the day I die. If that's the best story I ever do in my life, I'm good with that. So, that's great. But, I think with the real gift that my daughters have given me this intense fear is, again, this question of, "Now what do we do?"
RD: And the thing that I really think about the most is when I was doing the Unfounded Series and doing a lot of speaking about it afterwards, I would frequently have people come up to me, mainly women of a certain vintage and say to me, "This is so important what you're doing. Thank you, thank you, thank you. La-la-la-la-la-la. Nice things, nice things." Can we talk about young women and drinking? Why are we not talking about the fact that these women are getting so drunk at parties, and they're getting sexually assaulted? We didn't drink that much when I was younger, I don't understand why we're not talking about that. And in my head, I'm like, "Uh-huh. Okay, yeah, because we don't wanna put all of the pressure on the victimized to protect themselves, and you're taking the onus off the perpetrators and blah, blah, blah." And I kinda walk away feeling very smug and woke. And then, I had two girls and I think about, "What am I gonna say to them when they go to school, high school, when they start going to parties and drinking?" I'm 100% going to talk about alcohol and safety. And it just, again, opened up this like it's not black and white. One of my favorite chapters in the book is I went to New York and hang out with this woman, Susan Brownmiller.
GB: What a character.
RD: Who wrote... So character... The first book on rape. It kept coming up over and over again, Against Our Will, 1975. She was a radical feminist in her day. And now, she's written off as a bit of a victim blamer, because she has these views like, "Women, you can't get so drunk at parties. You can't just wear whatever you want. You're not equal in this world." That's the real talk. It shouldn't be that way, but it is. And understanding where people are coming from... I don't have to agree with Susan Brownmiller, but I understand where she's coming from. And I think those are the kind of little give and takes that we need to have as we sort out these big questions.
GB: For sure. I wanna ask you that legacy piece as well.
MT: Yeah. Well, it's interesting. I started the Weinstein investigation my first day back from maternity leave.
RD: That's heavy.
MT: My daughter was four months old.
GB: Oh, man.
MT: And I had been reporting on Donald Trump and reporting some of the... I was one of the first reporters to write about, work on the stories of women who came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against him, and then I helped cover his election, and then continued reporting on him in Russia up until having a baby in March of 2017. And so... And then, I came back and started the Weinstein investigation. And I will confess that I do feel like having a daughter played a role in my approach to the reporting, and it was certainly a conversation that I had with her even at four months old, I would say.
MT: It made it a little easier for me to leave. I'd say, "Listen... " In those first weeks when I was leaving home and leaving her with another caregiver, I think I had this conversation with her both for her and for me, where I'd say, "I'm going off to report on this important story that's hopefully gonna make the world safer for other little girls and you gotta do your part. You gotta do your part."
RD: Suck it up. Suck it up.
MT: "You gotta behave for the caregiver while mom's gone. You're in on this now." And then I would also say, you talked... To bring it back to actually one of the first questions, Robyn. When you were talking about facing your own... How even for those of us who have done the reporting have had these different layers of our own kind of transformations, thought transformations in the course of, not just reporting the stories, but watching how everything has unfolded in the last two months. Within... I think it was within months of working on the Weinstein investigation, I even started to realize how I talked to my daughter. And I think this happens to little children all the time, but I think maybe especially to little girls, whether it's on the playground or when family and friends are coming over to visit, when there's an encouragement to give somebody a hug.
GB: Hug him, yes.
MT: Give somebody a hug, go up and... "Why don't you go and give somebody a kiss or a hug?" And I even caught myself saying this to my daughter. At this point, I guess, she was a year and a half, so she could understand me a little bit, she could understand me more. And I caught myself mid-sentence telling her to go give somebody a hug. And I caught myself and I had this moment of horror. And that evening, as I was reading to her, as I was getting ready to put her to bed, I said, I apologized to her. I said, "Amira, I'm so sorry that I've been encouraging you to have contact with people and hug people. If you wanna be affectionate, that's your choice. Nobody can ever tell you to... Don't let anybody tell you when to kiss and don't let anybody tell you when to hug," and have been absolute about that ever since.
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