The “Today” show got the first interview with Robin Wright for the final season of “House of Cards,” and interviewer Savannah Guthrie let the star of the Netflix series skate on addressing the most serious allegations of sexual harassment and assault on the set by Kevin Spacey.
Guthrie generally questioned Wright about the allegations against Spacey, which led to his firing and “House of Cards” to suspend production on what will now be its final season. But she didn’t press her on what I consider to be unsatisfactory answers. Spacey has been accused of sexual assault by numerous men, including employees of the show that is filmed in the Baltimore area.
Guthrie did ask Wright if there was “anything in all of these years of working with him that made you think something like this was possible?”
“We were co-workers really,” Wright replied. “We never socialized outside of work. Respectful, professional relationship. He was so great with me. He was never disrespectful to me. So, that’s my personal experience. That’s the only thing I feel I have the right to talk about.”
Guthrie did softly circle back later with, “Was there any kind of red flag, anything that would make you think this was even possible?”
“Kevin and I knew each other between action and cut and in between set-ups where we would giggle,” Wright replied. “I didn’t know the man. I knew the incredible craftsman he is.”
But this is what Guthrie did not ask Wright about: allegations, like the ones contained in a Nov. 3 CNN report, that the set in Maryland where “House of Cards” was filmed was “toxic” with Spacey’s abusive and predatory sexual behavior.
The CNN report was headlined: “'House of Cards' employees allege sexual harassment, assault by Kevin Spacey.”
Citing eight employees, it went on to say, “Spacey made the set of Netflix's ‘House of Cards’ into a ‘toxic’ work environment through a pattern of sexual harassment.”
Guthrie had the perfect opening to address it after asking how “that real-life drama” involving allegations of sexual assault against Spacey “affected the ‘House of Cards’ team.”
But she let Wright get away with saying, “I think we were all surprised, of course, and ultimately saddened.”
I do not believe both things can be true: that Wright and the “House of Cards team” knew absolutely nothing about Spacey’s alleged predatory behavior and that the kind of allegations in the reports by CNN about the set took place.
“One former employee told CNN that Spacey sexually assaulted him,” the report at cnn.com said. “The former production assistant, whose account has never previously been disclosed, told CNN that Spacey sexually assaulted him during one of the show's early seasons. All eight people, each of whom spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity for fear of professional repercussions for speaking out, described Spacey's behavior as ‘predatory,’ saying it included nonconsensual touching and crude comments and targeted production staffers who were typically young and male.”
One of journalism’s primary jobs is providing clarity by trying to resolve such contradictions — not serve up the kind of questions that allow someone who was in a position of authority and responsibility on that set to avoid taking the contradiction on.
Wright was a director, executive producer and co-star. She was not as powerful as Spacey, but she had enough power to say something if any part of what CNN alleged about that set was true.
She should at least be asked about it in promotional interviews she does for the final season, particularly in this moment where President Trump calls CNN “fake news” and questions the reality of anonymous sources.
In November, Media Rights Capital, the production company that makes “House of Cards,” and Netflix said they were going to investigate allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior on the set.
Sunday night, a spokeswoman for the production company declined comment when I asked whether that investigation was completed and, if so, when results would be released.
A source close to the production said the investigation has not been completed.
I think in this #MeToo moment, we all need to raise our games — especially the entertainment press, which has a history of having some interviewers playing nice in return for exclusive interviews.
That’s the Hollywood public relations game; it should not be journalism’s.
No premiere date has been announced for the final season. During NBC’s “exclusive” Monday, it was only described as returning in the fall.