Thanks to victims and reporters who worked to bring long-rumored sexual assault and misconduct allegations to light against powerful men like Harvey Weinstein and Louis C.K., we’re finally beginning to see instances where men publicly question other men about their alleged behavior. Last month, John Oliver confronted Dustin Hoffman during a panel that turned into a tense discussion about the allegations against him (Oliver later expressed some regrets, saying he “tried and failed” to have a constructive conversation), and the latest example comes from last night’s Late Show, where Stephen Colbert questioned guest James Franco about wearing a “Time’s Up” pin at this year’s Golden Globes despite the recent allegations against him from actors Ally Sheedy, Violet Paley, and others.
“You were wearing a ‘Time’s Up’ pin in support of the Time’s Up movement, which has been created by many powerful women in Hollywood to say that time is up for the abuse, misuse of women – both sexually and otherwise – not only in Hollywood, but around the country,” Colbert said. “They’ve established a legal defense fund for women and men who are being abused in this way. You got criticized for wearing that. Do you know why? And do you have a response, or anything you want to say about that criticism?” (The New York Times canceled an upcoming event with Franco yesterday due to the allegations.)
After saying that he wore the pin because he supports the idea that it’s time that women, people of color, and the LGBT community “fill all positions that they’ve been deprived of,” Franco responded by saying that while he hasn’t read the allegations on Twitter himself, they are “not accurate, but I completely support people coming out and being able to have a voice, because they didn’t have a voice for so long, so I don’t want to shut them down in any way. I think it’s a good thing, and I support it.”
Colbert could have left it there, but he pressed Franco once more: “Is there some way to have this conversation that piggybacks on what’s happening in social media?” he asked. “Because for so long accusations were not believed. When accusations happen – in your case, you say, ‘This is not an accurate thing for me.’ Do you have any idea of what the answer might be to come to some sense of what the truth is so there can be some sort of reconciliation between people who clearly have different views of things? I mean, it’s a big question, but I don’t know how to leave or to further this discussion.” The conversation ended with Franco claiming that if he’s done something wrong he’ll “fix it,” and that he thinks right now, “the point of this whole thing is that we listen. There were, you know, incredible people talking that night. They had a lot to say, and I’m here to listen and learn and change my perspective where it’s off, and I’m completely willing and I want to.”
This confrontation was far from perfect (For instance, how can Franco say in the same interview that the allegations are “inaccurate” but that he hasn’t read them himself? Or that the point of “Time’s Up” and #MeToo is to listen but that he hasn’t read the allegations himself?), but it’s refreshing to see a major network late night host like Colbert choose not to sidestep some tough, uncomfortable, direct questions in favor of an easy, promotional, softball interview. Franco’s responses only seem to prompt more questions about sexual misconduct allegations and how they’re discussed on a public platform like Late Show – questions that Colbert and other late night hosts will hopefully start asking themselves and their guests more often.