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John Oliver tackles Dustin Hoffman over harassment allegations

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John Oliver has confronted Dustin Hoffman in a tense public discussion about allegations of sexual harassment that have been made against the actor.

Hoffman defended himself after Anna Graham Hunter alleged he groped her on a film set when she was 17, in 1985.

The actor questioned Ms Graham Hunter’s claims, asking Oliver: “Do you believe this stuff that you’re reading?”

Hoffman said the HBO talk show host was not keeping an “open mind” and was unquestionably believing the accusers.

“I believe what she wrote, yes,” Oliver replied. “Because there’s no point in her lying.”

The actor countered: “Well, there’s a point in her not bringing it up for 40 years.”

Oliver was hosting a panel discussion in New York to mark the 20th anniversary of Hoffman’s film Wag The Dog.

Oliver said he wasn’t sure whether to broach the subject of the allegations but decided he’d end up “hating myself” if he didn’t.

The tetchy exchange was reported by The Washington Post, which also posted a video of part of the conversation.

Ms Graham Hunter published her account of her encounters with Hoffman – including diary entries she said she had written at the time in which she accused him of being a “dirty old man” – in The Hollywood Reporter in November.

The veteran star responded at the time by putting out a statement saying: “I have the utmost respect for women and feel terrible that anything I might have done could have put her in an uncomfortable situation.

“I am sorry. It is not reflective of who I am.”

‘A cop-out’

Oliver picked him up on that line at Monday’s public question-and-answer session – saying he wasn’t satisfied with it because “it is reflective of who you were”.

John OliverImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Oliver hosts HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

He went on: “If it happened and you’ve given no evidence to show it didn’t happen then there was a period of time for a while when you were a creeper around women.

“So it feels like a cop-out to say, ‘It wasn’t me.’ Do you understand how that feels like a dismissal?”

Hoffman replied: “It’s difficult to answer that question. You weren’t there.”

Oliver retorted: “I’m glad.”

‘Incredible assumption’

According to The Washington Post, Hoffman accused Oliver of making an “incredible assumption about me”, adding sarcastically: “You’ve made the case better than anyone else can. I’m guilty.”

Ms Graham Hunter worked as an intern on Hoffman’s 1985 TV movie Death of A Salesman.

“I still don’t know who this woman is,” Hoffman said on Monday. “I never met her. If I met her it was in concert with other people.”

The paper’s video also showed Hoffman explaining that it was normal to talk about subjects like sex within the close-knit confines of the film crew, who he said were like “a family”.

He said: “I said a stupid thing but I said it in the midst of the crew, and they said their stupid things. But they were sexual in terms of the humour of it. But that’s 40 years ago.”

Katharine Ross and Dustin HoffmanImage copyrightALAMY
Hoffman described touching his The Graduate co-star Katharine Ross on the bottom as “nothing”

Hoffman also told a story about touching his The Graduate co-star Katharine Ross on the bottom during rehearsals – an act he played down, describing it as “nothing”.

She became angry, Hoffman explained but described that as “an overreaction”, saying that she later apologised.

The discussion comes as Hollywood grapples with how to clean up its act amid allegations against a string of stars and executives, and was a rare example of one of those men being challenged in public.

bbc.com

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