The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is reportedly investigating its president over claims of sexual harassment, after he was implicated through a whistleblowing system he helped implement in the wake of earlier #MeToo scandals.
The academy received three claims of harassment against John Bailey on Wednesday, Variety wrote. If found at fault, he could be expelled under rules that did not exist before his election last year.
While the academy has not confirmed its president is under investigation, it released a statement referring to an ongoing “review.”
Bailey, a cinematographer whose work dates to the 1970s and includes acclaimed films such as “Groundhog Day,” was elected as the academy’s leader in August, weeks before a series of sex scandals went public and upended the film industry.
At the time, Bailey did not sound as though he expected the imminent #MeToo era.
“I was born a white man, and I can’t help it that I’m 75 years old. Is this some sort of limiting factor?” he told Variety when the magazine asked whether he was the right person to lead the Academy.
Two months after Bailey’s election, the powerful film producer Harvey Weinstein was publicly accused of demanding sexual favors from women — behavior that had apparently been widely known and tolerated in Hollywood for years. These reports inspired a chain of similar accusations — the #MeToo movement.
And suddenly, Bailey became a sort of change agent.
The group’s Board of Governors promised reform and voted to expel Weinstein days after the New York Times investigation of him broke.
“Recent public testimonies by some of filmdom’s most recognized women regarding sexual intimidation, predation, and physical force is, clearly, a turning point in the film industry — and hopefully in our country,” Bailey wrote to members of the academy in October, after Weinstein’s expulsion.
“The Academy cannot, and will not, be an inquisitorial court,” he continued, according to Variety, “but we can be part of a larger initiative to define standards of behavior, and to support the vulnerable women and men who may be at personal and career risk because of violations of ethical standards by their peers.”
In January, the board approved a code of conduct under which a committee would review workplace complaints against members, who could be suspended or expelled if found at fault.
The system had not been expected to be implemented until later this year, but after nominees for the 90th Academy Awards were announced in January, Bailey sounded like a cultural revolutionary.
“I may be a 75-year-old white male, but I’m every bit as gratified as the youngest of you here that the fossilized bedrock of many of Hollywood’s worst abuses are being jackhammered into oblivion,” he said at the luncheon, according to Vanity Fair. “We are witnessing this venerable motion-picture Academy reinvent itself before our very eyes.”
Variety did not report details of the claims made against Bailey this week, and the academy sent the outlet a boilerplate statement:
“The Academy treats any complaints confidentially to protect all parties. The Membership Committee reviews all complaints brought against Academy members according to our Standards of Conduct process, and after completing reviews, reports to the Board of Governors. We will not comment further on such matters until the full review is completed.”
Asked whether Bailey will continue his duties at the academy during any investigation, the group did not immediately reply to The Washington Post.