The Harvey Weinstein saga produced another astonishing chapter this week, when The New Yorker magazine reported that Weinstein had employed intelligence-gathering firms, spies, even former Mossad agents in an attempt to get dirt on his accusers and the journalists they were talking to about their allegations of sexual harassment and assault.
But journalist Kim Masters says she wasn't surprised to learn any of it.
"The extent of what Harvey did with these ex-Mossad agents, you know, it's a little surprising how aggressive and relentless and expensive it all must have been. But the threat has been a thing in Hollywood for a long time. "
And, Masters would know.
In speaking with The Investigators for this week's episode, (Saturday at 9:30 p.m. ET and Sunday at 5:30 p.m. ET on CBC News Network) the editor-at-large of The Hollywood Reporter magazine says she now believes she was one of the journalists targeted by the elaborate scheme.
A strategy revealed this week that Weinstein reportedly employed was to have someone, posing as a freelance reporter, email journalists believed to be working on the Weinstein story, to try to ferret out what they knew. Masters says it was only after looking back at some emails from a few months ago that she realized she'd been targeted.
"It was in August when the noose was tightening on Harvey and I was certainly very surprised to find that. But, I know Harvey certainly knows that I knew about these allegations about him many years ago — we were still looking into it and trying to get it on the record, and were, you know, intermittently over the course of years."
Masters has been reporting on the entertainment industry in the United States for 20 years. She says almost from the beginning she heard rumours about Weinstein's sexual harassment and assault of young female actors. Strangely, she says it was Weinstein himself who raised the rumours the first time they met.
"In very plain language he said, 'What have you heard about me?' And I said, 'I heard you rape women.' And, you know, I don't want to go too much into the answer because it was an off-the-record meeting, but it was not outrage or denial. Basically the message was, you know, you will never get me."
She believes Weinstein's power in Hollywood's film industry gave him the confidence to believe no one would ever be willing to publish the allegations.
"You might recall, he initially reacted to this story breaking by making a joke about how it sounds like it should be a movie. And that was the attitude I saw. It was this sort of, you know, somewhat arrogant thing of like, he just seemed very confident."
In the last several months, Masters says it seems Weinstein knew reporters at various publications, including her own, were closing in on enough evidence to publish. That's when she says Weinstein emailed her, out of the blue, offering her a book deal. She sensed it was an attempt to win her favour and didn't reply. She says Weinstein persisted.
"He called and again started bringing up this idea of a book deal. And, I just shut it down and said, 'You know, we're not having this conversation, Harvey.'"
Masters has published details of the Weinstein story since, and her stories about sexual harassment allegations against the head of Amazon studios, Roy Price, are believed to have led to his recent resignation.
But as startled as many have been to learn the details of how far Weinstein was apparently prepared to go to shut down stories about his behaviour, Masters says those familiar with Hollywood and its secrets, aren't surprised.
"The use of a private investigator is not a new thing. Don Simpson, who was a late producer of big movies told me: 'We're going to investigate you,' and I was like, 'Knock yourself out.' And, interestingly he said, 'It's not what we'll find; it's how we'll make it look.'"
Also this week on The Investigators with Diana Swain: CBC News journalists Valérie Ouellet and Zach Dubinsky talk about sorting through a terabyte of files in the Paradise Papers. And, producer Rachel Houlihan talks about this week's CBC News Investigation into ticket scalping.