James Toback, who at last count has been accused of sexually harassing 310 women, has denied the charges in an intervew with Rolling Stone, calling them “just too stupid.” (And we do mean “at last count”; the last time Slate published a story tallying Toback’s accusers, they jumped by several dozen a minute later.) Speaking to journalist Hillel Aron four days before the publication of Glenn Whipp’s initial Los Angeles Times story, which built on the accounts of 38 women who said that Toback had approached them on the street with the offer to be considered for a part in one of his films, lured several to a hotel room, and then masturbated in front of them, Toback responded:
Lemme be really clear about this. I don’t want to get a pat on the back, but I’ve struggled seriously to make movies with very little money, that I write, that I direct, that mean my life to me. The idea that I would offer a part to anyone for any other reason than that he or she was gonna be the best of anyone I could find is so disgusting to me. And anyone who says it is a lying cocksucker or cunt or both. Can I be any clearer than that?
Toback’s comments were made on Oct. 17, but not published until Friday.
Aron’s account of their exchange, which occured during an interview for Toback’s movie The Private Life of an American Woman, is a tense and combative one—a response you might expect from anyone being accused of behavior as stomach-turning as what Toback is alleged to have done. But you also see in Toback’s response the kinds of techniques that turn up again and again in the stories of his and Harvey Weinstein’s alleged victims, the threats and shame that kept many from speaking out, and kept the rest from being listened to when they did. (In an article in Vanity Fair, Selma Blair says that Toback “joked” about how he could have members of her family killed before he compelled her to take off her sweater and “raped my leg.”) “My question to you is, do you want to be a writer? Do you have any sense of yourself as a serious person? Because this stuff should be beneath anybody,” Toback says to Aron. ”[I]f I were you, I wouldn’t go repeating it, unless you really knew it were true, because it isn’t.”
Toback is right that “this stuff” should be “beneath anybody,” but not in the way that he means it.