A former writer for “Mad Men” has accused the show’s creator Matthew Weiner of sexual harassment.
Kater Gordon, who started out as Weiner’s personal assistant on the AMC drama series before going on to win an Emmy for her writing, alleged that Weiner once told her he should see her naked.
Gordon recounted the incident in an interview with website The Information, which first broke the news. The show’s former writer, who was promoted from a writer’s assistant to a staff writer, said Weiner made the comment during a late night writing session they had.
“He told me that I owed it to him to let him see me naked,” Gordon said.
She revealed that she “froze and tried to brush off” the remarks while going on with the work at hand. Gordon felt it was “lose-lose situation,” since confronting Weiner would “end her career” while not confronting him would “make it impossible to work with him.”
“I thought, ‘I can’t do anything to jeopardize.’ I need this credit. I saw no value to speaking out,” she said, not wanting to lose the writing credit on the episode that would eventually land her the Emmy in 2009. “So I did what I thought women were supposed to do.”
“I knew immediately when he crossed the boundary that it was wrong,” Gordon told The Information. “But I didn’t know then what my options were. Having a script or some sentences cued up as an arsenal— like a self-defense harassment arsenal—I could have used that in that moment, and it would have saved me years of regret that I didn’t handle that situation differently.”
One year after the Emmy win, Gordon was let go from the show which centered around an ad agency in 1960s New York, fueling speculation about the reason why a 27-year-old award-winning writer would leave the acclaimed series. The reason she was given by Weiner for not renewing her contract was an emotional blow for the young writer.
“He told me I was terrible at everything, from my work in the writer’s room to on set,” she said, adding that he told her about all the ways she had “fallen short.”
“I had the Emmy, but instead of being able to use that as a launch pad for the rest of my career, it became an anchor because I felt I had to answer to speculative stories in the press,” she said. “I eventually walked away instead of fighting back.”
Gordon has not worked in television since she left “Mad Men” and, in light of her experience and those of who have come to light since the Harvey Weinstein story broke, she has started a nonprofit to help victims of sexual harassment called Modern Alliance.
A spokesperson for Weiner dismissed the accusations and said he did “not remember saying this comment.”
“Mr. Weiner spent eight to ten hours a day writing dialogue aloud with Miss Gordon, who started on ‘Mad Men’ as his writers assistant. He does not remember saying this comment nor does it reflect a comment he would say to any colleague,” the representative said in a statement to the publication. “During the nine years he was showrunner on Mad Men, Mr. Weiner had a predominantly female-driven writers room. He has long believed in and implemented an egalitarian working environment including the highest levels of production and writing based on mutual respect for all.”
It seems the allegations have already had an effect, though as a Town Hall event with Weiner and novelist Maria Semple scheduled for next week was cancelled “in light of recent reporting.”
“The event was cancelled by Town Hall Seattle when it became clear the program as conceived—a conversation between two respected artists and entertainment industry veterans about television, novels, creativity, and commerce—would not be possible, or responsible, in light of recent reporting,” Town Hall executive director Wier Harman explained, according to The Stranger.
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