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speaking out
September 9, 2019

Yet another woman has accused disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault, with a former employee now coming forward after two decades to tell her story.

Rowena Chiu, who worked for Weinstein while she was an assistant at Miramax, spoke with journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey for their new book She Said, alleging Weinstein assaulted her in a hotel room in 1998, as reported by The New York Times. She later received a settlement. Chiu spoke alongside Kantor, Twohey, and actress and Weinstein accuser Ashley Judd on Monday's Today, saying that when she was initially approached in October 2017, when the allegations against Weinstein were first reported, the idea of breaking her non-disclosure agreement was "terrifying."

At that point, Chiu says she had not spoken with her loved ones about the assault, and she "wasn't ready" to come forward, fearful of the "repercussions."

"It really has taken all of two years to square some of those things away," Chiu told NBC News.

Chiu said that Weinstein on numerous occasions asked her to give him a massage and that this escalated until "he pushed me back against the bed, and I was petrified and terrified as he tried to rape me."

According to the Times, Chiu says she struggled with depression after the alleged assault and attempted suicide, but she was inspired to come forward after meeting Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault in 2018. Weinstein, who has been charged with rape and predatory sexual assault and will stand trial in January, has denied Chiu's allegation. Brendan Morrow

Brendan Morrow

May 28, 2019

Ellen DeGeneres is opening up about being sexually abused by her stepfather as a teenager, saying she hopes to empower young girls to speak out.

DeGeneres spoke to David Letterman for an episode of his Netflix talk show My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, which will be released on Friday. In it, she describes her stepfather sexually assaulting her when she was 15 or 16 years old.

“He told me ... that he'd felt a lump in [my mom's] breast and needed to feel my breasts because he didn't want to upset her, but he needed to feel mine," DeGeneres says, Yahoo reports. "...He convinced me that he needs to feel my breasts and then he tries to do it again another time, and then another time."

DeGeneres went on to say that when her stepfather tried to come into her room, she "kicked the window out and ran." But she says that she didn't tell her mother because "I was protecting her and I knew that would ruin her happiness." This is something she now regrets, saying, "I should never have protected her — I should have protected myself." When she did eventually speak up, DeGeneres says at first her mother didn't believe her.

The talk show host also said that the only reason she's detailing this "really horrible, horrible" story is that "I want other girls to not ever let someone do that," adding "it angers me when victims aren't believed, because we just don't make stuff up," The Wrap reports.

DeGeneres spoke with Today in October 2018, after Christine Blasey Ford's testimony against then Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, about being the victim of sexual abuse, saying she is "furious" at people who don't believe survivors. She also said on Ellen that "if anything, before I stop doing this show someday, I hope that I'm empowering women. We just have to not be quiet anymore." Brendan Morrow

April 30, 2019

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on Tuesday accused President Trump and his allies of doing "everything they can to distance themselves and misinform the public from the monsters that they created" who are now "terrorizing the Jewish community and the Muslim community."

Omar, one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, told a crowd in Washington, D.C., that the suspect in Saturday's shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Southern California has also been accused of trying to bomb a nearby mosque. "I can't ever speak of Islamophobia and fight for Muslims if I am not willing to fight against anti-Semitism," she declared. Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, she added, are "two sides of the same coin of bigotry."

Omar has been criticized by Trump, conservatives like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and some in her own party for comments that they said sounded anti-Semitic. She slammed Trump for his "vile attacks" against her, and said she figured out why so many people are coming after her. "The thing that upsets the occupant in the White House, his goons in the Republican Party, many of our colleagues in the Democratic Party is that they can't stand, they cannot stand, that a refugee, a black woman, an immigrant, a Muslim shows up in Congress thinking she's equal to them," she said. Catherine Garcia

March 20, 2019

After President Trump went after late Senator John McCain once again, some Republicans in the Senate are speaking out.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) is the latest to do so, telling The Bulwark that Trump's comments about McCain "drive me crazy" and that "America deserves better." This comes after Trump in the Oval Office on Tuesday criticized McCain, who died of brain cancer in 2018, saying his vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act was "disgraceful" and that "I was never a fan of John McCain, and I never will be." Trump's also went after McCain three different times on Twitter over the weekend, including retweeting a follower who wrote, "We hated McCain."

In response, Isakson said "nobody — regardless of their position — is above common decency and respect for people that risk their life for your life." He argued that when Trump makes comments like these, "all these kids are out there listening to the president of the United States talk that way about the most decorated senator in history who is dead, [and it] just sets the worst tone possible."

This isn't Isakson's last word on the subject, as he told The Bulwark he will speak against these attacks on McCain on Wednesday and will "lay it on the line."

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) previously pushed back on Trump's attacks on McCain on Tuesday, tweeting that he "can't understand" why Trump would "disparage a man as exemplary as my friend John McCain." Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) also praised McCain amid the president's criticism, saying "nothing about his service will ever be changed or diminished," although unlike Romney's post, Graham's tweets didn't mention Trump. Brendan Morrow

March 6, 2019

Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) said on Wednesday that she was raped by a superior officer when she served in the Air Force.

During a hearing on sexual assault in the military, the Arizona senator and former fighter pilot said that her passion for this issue is "deeply personal" because she is "also a military sexual assault survivor" and that in "one case," she was "preyed upon and then raped by a superior officer."

McSally said she didn't report because she "didn't trust the system at the time" and "felt powerless." Later in her career, McSally says she came forward with her story and was "horrified at how my attempt to share generally my experiences were handled. I almost separated from the Air Force at 18 years over my despair. Like many victims, I felt like the system was raping me all over again."

The senator also said during Wednesday's hearing that she "witnessed so many weaknesses in the processes involving sexual assault prevention, investigation, and adjudication" in the military, which "shaped my approach as a commander and informed my advocacy for change." There's still "a long way to go" toward solving this problem, she said, adding that "we must fix those distortions in the culture of our military that permit sexual harm towards women, and yes, some men as well." Watch McSally's statement below. Brendan Morrow

February 14, 2019

Actor Jussie Smollett is speaking out in his first TV interview since he was the victim of an attack police have been investigating as a possible hate crime.

Smollett told Good Morning America on Thursday that he is "forever changed" after two men allegedly beat him while shouting racial and homophobic slurs. The Empire star says this occurred while he was leaving a Subway in Chicago late at night and that the attackers yelled, "This is MAGA country."

Some had called his account into question in recent weeks, seizing on certain details such as Smollett not wanting to hand over his phone to police, although he did give over redacted records, and police have said he has been cooperative and that his account is consistent and credible. Smollett told Good Morning America that he wanted to protect his privacy and the privacy of his friends and family by not giving over his phone. He also said that he was taken aback by people doubting his account of what happened.

"It's not necessarily that you don't believe that this is the truth," he said. "You don't even want to see the truth."

Smollett, who said he's "pissed off" by these people who claim he's lying, also speculated that no one would doubt his story if the men who attacked him were Muslim, Mexican, or black. This "says a lot about the place that we are in our country," he added. Watch a portion of Smollett's interview below. Brendan Morrow

February 8, 2019

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway says she was assaulted by a woman who has since been charged and will be tried next month.

Conway in a CNN interview Friday alleged that, in October 2018, she was at a restaurant with her daughter when a woman, Mary Elizabeth Inabinett, began "screaming her head off" and started "grabbing me from behind, grabbing my arms, and was shaking me to the point where I felt maybe somebody was hugging me."

Conway said she called 911 on this "out of control" and "unhinged" woman, who left the restaurant before authorities arrived. In November, police charged Inabinett with second-degree assault and disorderly conduct, CNN reports. "She was just, her whole face was terror and anger," Conway said. "She was right here, and my daughter was right there. She ought to pay for that."

Inabinett's lawyer told CNN she did not assault Conway and will plead not guilty. "Ms. Inabinett saw Kellyanne Conway, a public figure, in a public place, and exercised her First Amendment right to express her personal opinions," her lawyer said.

A charging document obtained reportedly shows Conway said the woman screamed at her for eight to 10 minutes, and police wrote after interviewing the restaurant manager that Inabinett "was yelling 'shame on you' and other comments believed to be about Conway's political views." Conway told CNN that people should "get over the damn 2016 election," and she hopes this will "become a teachable moment for everyone that this all has consequences."

A trial will take place next month in Maryland. Brendan Morrow

January 10, 2019

Lady Gaga is finally speaking out about the abuse allegations against R. Kelly and offering an apology for having worked with him.

Gaga on Twitter said she stands behind the women accusing Kelly of abuse and feels "strongly that their voices need to be heard and taken seriously." She also said that the allegations against him are "horrifying and indefensible."

This comes after Lifetime aired a documentary, Surviving R. Kelly, which shed light on the decades of abuse allegations against the R&B singer. Kelly has been accused of sexually abusing numerous young women, including a 15-year-old girl for whom he is alleged to have forged documents in order to illegally marry. He was indicted on child pornography charges in 2002 over a tape that allegedly showed him abusing a 14-year-old girl, but he was ultimately found not guilty.

Gaga, who in 2013 collaborated with Kelly on the song "Do What U Want," expressed regret over having done so and apologized for her "poor judgment," pledging never to work with Kelly again and saying she will be removing the song from iTunes and streaming platforms.

Kelly is reportedly under criminal investigation in Georgia as a result of Surviving R. Kelly, CNN reports. He has denied all of the allegations against him and has threatened to sue all involved in the documentary. Brendan Morrow

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