A panel discussion at a 20th anniversary screening of Wag the Dog at the Tribeca Institute on Monday night quickly became the latest flashpoint in the national reckoning over sexual misconduct by men in entertainment, media, and politics. Last Week Tonight host John Oliver, the panel moderator, fired the first shot, confronting panelist Dustin Hoffman about decades-old accusations of sexual misconduct, centering around a woman named Anna Graham Hunter's charge that Hoffman groped her and made inappropriate comments when she was a 17-year-old intern on the set of a 1985 TV version of Death of a Salesman. The 30-minute conversation got tense at times, and awkward.
"This is something we're going to have to talk about because ... it's hanging in the air," Oliver told Hoffman. "It's hanging in the air?" Hoffman replied. "From a few things you've read you've made an incredible assumption about me." Oliver took particular issue with Hoffman's response to Graham Hunter's accusation. "'It's 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 you've given no evidence to show it didn't happen, 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.'"
At various points, the other panelists — Robert De Niro, producer Jane Rosenthal, director Barry Levinson — tried to move the conversation on, as did Oliver, but Hoffman returned to the topic. Oliver shook his head at some of Hoffman's explanations and said he got "no pleasure from this conversation," either. "The easy way is not to bring anything up," he said. "Unfortunately, that leaves me at home later at night hating myself. Why the f--k didn't I say something? No one stands up to powerful men." "Am I the powerful man?" Hoffman asked. That, at least, seems a clear-cut yes.