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Kevin Spacey’s social media video ‘baffled’ fans. Is he planning a comeback?

Actor Kevin Spacey faces charges of indecent assault and battery of a then 18-year-old boy in 2016. He hadn't spoken publicly in over a year, but Monday released a YouTube video in which he appears as Frank Underwood, his "House of Cards" character. Nick Schifrin asks Alissa Wilkinson of Vox whether Spacey might be planning a comeback, as have other male celebrities accused of sexual assault.

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  • Nick Schifrin:

    Actor Kevin Spacey will face a judge over allegations of assault. More than a dozen men, some anonymously, have accused Spacey of misconduct, harassment, or assault. Now he's facing his first criminal charge when he goes to court next month.

    The charges against the two-time Oscar winner stem from an alleged incident in July 2016. Spacey is accused of groping the 18-year-old son of a Boston TV anchor. Heather Unruh came forward in November 2017, saying Spacey stuck his hand down her son's pants at a restaurant in Nantucket.

  • Heather Unruch:

    Kevin Spacey bought him drink after drink after drink. And when my son was drunk, Spacey made his move and sexually assaulted him. And I want to make it clear, this was a criminal act.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Spacey faces charges of indecent assault and battery, and is due in court on January 7. But, yesterday, shortly after the charge became public, Spacey posted a video on YouTube.

  • Kevin Spacey:

    So, we're not done, no matter what anyone says. And, besides, I know what you want. You want me back.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    That's the language of his character Frank Underwood from the Netflix political thriller "House of Cards."

  • Kevin Spacey:

    Welcome to Washington.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Underwood was killed off the show after allegations against Spacey began in late 2017, and this is the first time he's appeared as the character since.

  • Kevin Spacey:

    Despite all the poppycock, the animosity, the headlines, the impeachment without a trial, despite everything, despite even my own death, I feel surprisingly good.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Spacey's last public comments were in October 2017, after his first accuser, 47-year-old actor Anthony Rapp, said Spacey climbed on top of him when Rapp was just 14 years old.

    At the time, Spacey tweeted: "I honestly do not remember the encounter, but if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology. This story has encouraged me to address other things about my life. I choose now to live as a gay man. I want to deal with this honestly and openly, and that starts with examining my own behavior."

    Spacey also remains under investigation for sexual assault in Los Angeles over an alleged incident in 2016, and faces accusations from his time as artistic director of London's Old Vic Theatre.

    And to talk about Spacey's unusual response, and how other accused men are attempting comebacks, we turn to Alissa Wilkinson, a film critic for Vox who has been watching a number of these cases, and joins me via Skype from Albany, New York.

    Thank you very much for joining us on the "NewsHour."

    I will be honest. I am a little baffled when I watch this video. What was your response to it?

  • Alissa Wilkinson:

    I was also baffled. I couldn't figure out what he was trying to do, why he was doing it as Frank Underwood, a notorious lying and murdering character, or what the purpose was at all.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Do we have any idea whether this is some kind of comeback?

  • Alissa Wilkinson:

    Well, it is hard to say.

    What we do know is that Netflix, which carried "House of Cards," declined to comment and made it clear many times that they don't want to work with him again. "House of Cards" is not coming back.

    But what he could be trying to do is convince a certain number of his fans that he is trying to stage a comeback anyhow, that they shouldn't judge him based on these allegations or other accusations that have been coming forward over the past year, and that they should do this because of the kind of character that he has played in the past.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Could that kind of message be received well by his fans?

  • Alissa Wilkinson:

    I think it is a very small number of people who would receive it well.

    You know, if you have watched "House of Cards" you know that this character is, again, a cheat, a liar. He never says anything truthful unless it benefits him. He murders people to get his way.

    And so most people, I think, who watch the show know that this character, even if they kind of admire him a little, he is not someone that you are supposed to trust. But with most TV shows about antiheroes, there is a group of people who watch them and think that is someone to emulate.

    And you can imagine people finding something kind of interesting or intriguing or honest about this character.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    You have been writing not only about this, but also other men who have been accused of misconduct or harassment or assault in the last year-and-a-half or so.

    How does this moment that it seems as though Spacey is trying to seize compare to some of these other men who have been accused and their attempts to try and get back into the public eye?

  • Alissa Wilkinson:

    Yes, it is really interesting to look at this.

    So, for instance, Spacey himself, when allegations first came out against him a year ago, he tried to deflect them by coming out at the same time and saying he wanted to be honest and open and live as a gay man, which wasn't anything anyone was talking about. They were talking about him making unwanted sexual advances towards a minor.

    But you can also look at men, for instance, like Harvey Weinstein. When allegations came out against him in October of 2017, his response was to issue a letter that seemed to take them very lightly and say he was going to spend his time fighting the National Rifle Association, which is not related in any way, again.

    Or you can think about someone like Louis C.K., who has a very different set of allegations against him, but he has been making a comeback in New York doing sets at comedy chubs. And in his first set that was kind of announced, he made jokes about rape whistles, which seems like an unforced error. Why did you do that?

    So we kind of see this over and over, where men who have been powerful, maybe they have been celebrities, maybe the truth is that they have just been used to kind of not really being connected to reality in a way that has, I don't know, coddled them or given a different sense of who they are and how people respond to them than is actually the case.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    So that their fame has somehow allowed them to deflect in the past or somehow think that they can get away with this conduct.

    But is there any sense that they can get away with it, that haven't we changed? Haven't we gone beyond the point where the fame allows them to do what they have been doing?

  • Alissa Wilkinson:


    Well, this is kind of what we are figuring out right now. We are a little over a year out from when the big MeToo movement began, when all of these allegations against famous people started to sort of tumble out.

    And we are starting to see right now people hike Louis C.K., like perhaps Kevin Spacey seem to be doing, trying to make a comeback into the public eye. The question is whether the public is accepting of that and also, I think, whether people are looking for a true sense of honesty or self-awareness or something like repentance before they are willing to bring that person back and say, you know, we love you like we used to.

    And, unfortunately, in some of these cases, both Weinstein and Spacey, for instance, you know, they were kind of open secrets in Hollywood. A lot of people knew these sort of things were going on for a long time, so it wasn't a shocker. And they are very serious allegations.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Yes, they are.

    Alissa Wilkinson with Vox, thank you very much.

  • Alissa Wilkinson:

    Thank you.

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