Feminist attorney Lisa Bloom is under fire from all sides over her work on behalf of Harvey Weinstein, a producer who is accused of breathtaking attacks of sexual harassment against those under his control or influence. Much of the criticism has accused Bloom as well as Clinton advisors like Lanny Davis. However, there appears to have been push back from her actual clients at the Weinstein company, particularly after Bloom’s television appearances where she seemed to struggle with defending Weinstein. Bloom called Weinstein “an old dinosaur learning new ways,” as if calling women to your room in a bathroom and demanded massages was an acceptable old way in the last two centuries. Bloom also said publicly that her media client engaged in “illegal” conduct — a surprising admission for someone serving as a spokesperson who happens to be a lawyer. Critics raised the hypocrisy in Bloom’s past attacks on accused harassers and her awkward defense of Weinstein. Now reports suggest that company board members raised not only a possible conflict of interest in the case but some remarkably ill-conceived advice from Bloom in managing the scandal. Weinstein himself was fired yesterday. Bloom has responded to conflict issues raised in her Weinstein contracts by distinguishing legal from non-legal conflicts of interests.
I previously criticized Bloom over her staging of a disastrous press conference for her client Kathy Gifford. Bloom’s work with Weinstein could be worse. Two board members reportedly pushed for the company to sever Bloom as an advisor: Weinstein’s brother, Bob Weinstein and Lance Maerov.
Bloom sent an email to board members that outlined her plan to manage the scandal for Weinstein in securing “more and different reporting.” Most notably, this included “photos of several of the accusers in very friendly poses with Harvey after his alleged misconduct.” That is a standard tactic in sexual harassment cases by the defense to undermine the credibility of accusers. Maerov correctly noted that Bloom’s approach would succeed in only “fanning the flames and compounding the problem.” He further noted that “publishing pictures of victims in friendly poses with Harvey will backfire as it suggests they are exculpatory or negate any harm done to them through alleged actions.” He also raised Bloom’s arrangement with Weinstein to turn one of her books into a television series: “You have a commercial relationship with TWC via a TV deal so how can you possibly provide impartial advice to Harvey or address this group with any credibility?” He apparently asked that she sever ties with the company.
Bob Weinstein fired off an angry email after Bloom appeared on “Good Morning America.” He pointed out that the situation was getting worse and worse under Bloom’s strategy and “It is my opinion, that u are giving your client poor counsel. Perhaps, Harvey as he stated in the NY Times, to the world, should get professional help for a problem that really exists.”
The board took action to order an independent investigation and shortly thereafter Bloom resigned and posted this on twitter: “I have resigned as an advisor to Harvey Weinstein,. My understanding is that Mr. Weinstein and his board are moving toward an agreement.” Later he was fired.
Bloom has insisted that she personally “did not release photos of accusers” to the press, but did not deny pushing that strategy. She also denied that her work with Mr. Weinstein created a conflict of interest, but narrowly construed the question as a legal conflict of interest: “A conflict is representing two different sides in the same case.”
It is certainly true that there is no ethical code or disciplinary body for “media advisers” as opposed to lawyers. However, Bloom’s often awkward defense of Weinstein will continue to raise questions in light of her hope for a television series. It is not a question of liability but credibility.