A 20th anniversary public screening of “Wag the Dog” got very topical when HBO host John Oliver repeatedly questioned Oscar-winning actor Dustin Hoffman, who starred in the political satire, over recent allegations of Hoffman’s sexual misconduct toward women.
The “Last Week Tonight” host was moderating a discussion at New York’s 92nd Street Y with Hoffman, “Wag the Dog” co-star Robert De Niro, the film’s director Barry Levinson and producer Jane Rosenthal.
Approximately halfway through the hour-long talk, according to the Washington Post, Oliver raised the subject of Hoffman’s behavior toward women which has come under the spotlight, forming part of the wave of reports over sexual misconduct in Hollywood.
Actress Anna Graham Hunter previously wrote an article for The Hollywood Reporter in which she alleged Hoffman groped her while she interned on the set of the film “Death of a Salesman” in 1985. He was also accused of groping a producer, Wendy Riss Gatsiounis, in 1991 and of untoward behavior on the set of “The Graduate” toward his co-stars Katharine Ross and Anne Bancroft.
In response, Hoffman apologized and said he felt “terrible that anything I might have done could have put her in an uncomfortable situation.”
This wasn’t enough for Oliver, who asked Hoffman at the event, “This is something we’re going to have to talk about because…it’s hanging in the air….You’ve made one statement in print. Does that feel like enough for you?”
Hoffman responded to Oliver about Hunter’s claims. “First of all, it didn’t happen the way she reported. I still don’t know who this woman is. I never met her. If I met her, it was in concert with other people.”
Oliver then took issue with Hoffman’s statement in his apology that the alleged incident is “not reflective of who I am.” “It’s that kind of response to this stuff that pisses me off,” Oliver said. “It is reflective of who you were. If it happened and you’ve given no evidence to show it didn’t happen. Then there was a period of time for awhile 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?”
Hoffman replied, “It’s difficult to answer that question. You weren’t there.” To which Oliver responded, “I’m glad.”
The pair weren’t finished sparring, according to eyewitness Steven Zeitchik of the Washington Post:
All hell has now broken loose on this Wag The Dog panel. The subject seemed over after seven minutes but Hoffman brought it up again, saying Oliver is not keeping an “open mind” and is unquestionably believing accusers, and a testy five minutes followed.
— Steven Zeitchik (@ZeitchikWaPo) December 5, 2017
This morning Oliver was praised by many on social media for his actions:
John Oliver did what most men have not done in Hollywood last night—he grilled Dustin Hoffman about his sexual harassment allegations in publichttps://t.co/eHLJ8Oqwzv
— Ira Madison III (@ira) December 5, 2017
But others questioned whether the 20th anniversary screening of “Wag the Dog” was the right forum to grill Hoffman over his sexual past:
I love John Oliver, but he’s never going to get a moderating job again because every publicist will get the heeby jeebys after watching his drilling of Hoffman, right or wrong. https://t.co/WMytUtuuMx
— Bumble Ward (@BumbleWard) December 5, 2017
The event was being staged by the 92nd Street Y on behalf of the Tribeca Institute, co-founded by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal.