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Director Bryan Singer accused of sexual abuse, days after his film receives Oscar nod

The Atlantic has published a report detailing multiple allegations of sexual abuse against director Bryan Singer, whose film “Bohemian Rhapsody” received an Oscar nomination for best picture just two days ago. Some victims accuse Singer of misconduct that occurred when they were underage. Journalist Alex French, who investigated the story, joins Amna Nawaz.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    There are new allegations of sexual misconduct and assault by a prominent filmmaker, Bryan Singer.

    Singer directed "Bohemian Rhapsody," which was just nominated for a Best Picture Oscar earlier this week and has grossed $800 million to date.

    He's made a number of other major films as well, including several of the X-Men movies and "The Usual Suspects." His movies have earned $3 billion at the box office.

    Even today, a film company said that it will keep him as the director of the upcoming film "Red Sonja." Singer may earn up to $10 million for that project.

    Amna Nawaz looks at the allegations and how they once again raise questions about Hollywood.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Judy, Bryan Singer has faced similar allegations and even lawsuits before that were eventually dismissed.

    But an investigation published in "The Atlantic" details new claims of abuse and sexual assault from four men who say they were minors at the time. Three of them remained anonymous in the piece. A fourth went public by name.

    In some cases, Singer is accused outright of rape and assault. In others, he's accused of seduction, sexual encounters and misconduct when the men were underage. The article also reports that Singer engaged in other predatory behavior dating back to 1997 and that he was sometimes aided by people around him.

    Now, Singer has disputed these claims and hit back hard at the article, which he called a — quote — "homophobic smear piece."

    Alex French is one of the two journalists who worked on this investigation. He joins me now by Skype.

    Alex, welcome to the "NewsHour."

    We noted there this isn't the first time these kinds of allegations have been made against Singer. So, what was it now about these four men and their stories that made you and your reporting partner, Max Potter, we should mention, look into this?

  • Alex French:

    We kicked things off last December, after a Seattle man named Cesar Sanchez-Guzman accused Mr. Singer of raping him in 2003, when Sanchez-Guzman was 17.

    Not long after — not long after that, my reporting partner, Max, pointed out to me that Mr. Singer had been trailed by allegations of sexual misconduct against underaged men for two decades.

    We spent a year researching and reporting around Mr. Singer's behavior. We spoke to 50 sources. And, as you mentioned in your intro, along the way, we met these four guys whom have never — none of them had ever spoke to the media before. All four of them claimed that they had sexual contact with Mr. Singer when they were underage.

    I think these guys had watched the MeToo movement unfold and decided it was time to tell their stories.

    What was really striking about them, especially the alias guys, was they didn't want anything. They're not — they haven't filed suit. They're not asking for money. They're not looking for attention.

    They just really felt like it was time to tell their story.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, obviously, in a story like this, when the allegations are this serious, granting anonymity is a very serious decision you have to make.

    Why did those three men want to remain anonymous? And why did you decide that their stories were credible enough that you have granted them that and moved forward with the story?

  • Alex French:

    That wasn't something that we took lightly.

    I can assure you these guys are very, very real to Max and I. We didn't interview them just once. We interviewed them a dozen times, in person, over the phone. We got to know all about their lives. We really soaked in the details that they provided to us about these encounters with Mr. Singer.

    And then Max and I really spent a lot of time working to corroborate their claims. We — one of the men in the story claims that he was assaulted in a house in a Beverly Hills in a specific bedroom. And we went and we found a floor plan for the house, for instance, to corroborate those — those claims.

    Along the way, one of the guys said to us, in reaction to questions about going on the record and MeToo, he said to me: "You know, Alex, I work paycheck to paycheck. The sort of bravery that you are asking me to have is really a luxury."

    Like, this guy is not an actress who's pulling $10 million per film. I think a lot of these guys had reservations because they were afraid of some sort of retaliation.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Alex, and we should mention you and Max were first reporting this for another publication, for "Esquire," where you both also work and write for.

    And you clarified in a statement later that it went through a fact-checking process there. They decided not to run it. Executives there decided not to run it, before you took it to "The Atlantic," where it was eventually run.

    Do you know why it wasn't run originally in "Esquire," why they killed it?

  • Alex French:

    So, it is true that the story was conceived of and assigned by "Esquire" magazine, which is owned by the Hearst Corporation.

    It's also true that we went through the full editorial process of "Esquire," including fact-checking and an extensive legal vetting process.

    When all that was done, our story had the full support and endorsement of "Esquire"'s editor-in-chief, Jay Fielden, and Michael Hainey. He's the executive editorial director. Those guys fought hard for the story.

    In the end, it was killed by executives at Hearst. And we don't know why. We were not provided any sort of rationale.

    Bringing the story to "The Atlantic" was not a long conversation. I think that magazine has a well-earned reputation for journalistic excellence. And we are — Max and I are really grateful to Jeff Goldberg, Don Peck, Bob Cohn, and Denise Wills for giving the story a home and putting it through another — another rigorous fact-check and robust legal vetting.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, Alex, before the story even came out, Mr. Singer issued a response, knowing it was being reported.

    I want to share some of those excerpts from you.

    He claimed that you were making assumptions that are fictional and irresponsible, that you were rehashing false accusations and bogus lawsuits, and that you were making him out to be guilty by association simply because of people that he'd known or met in the past. He then reiterated a lot of these comments when the piece was published.

    He also said the timing is suspect here. He has a big movie out right now, claims you're getting attention by publishing this right now.

    What do you have to say to that?

  • Alex French:

    So, in the past, when confronted with these sort of — sorts of allegations, Mr. Singer has always reverted to cheap tactics, you know, misdirection, counteraccusations, victim-shaming.

    I think his statement in October, when he first caught wind of this story, and yesterday really failed to address very detailed accusations made by the men in the story. They just don't hold water.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, Alex, oftentimes, when we have heard similar stories against powerful figures first reported, additional accusations or allegations then surface.

    Since this has run, have you been approached by anyone else who's made similar allegations?

  • Alex French:

    I'm not at liberty to say that right now. Sorry.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    OK.

    Alex French, whose latest piece is now in "The Atlantic," thanks very much for your time.

  • Alex French:

    Thank you so much for your time.

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