Comedian Louis C.K. responded to a New York Times report in which five women’s accused him of sexual misconduct with a 493-word statement that covers a ton of ground: what he did (ask them to watch him masturbate); why he was able to do it (being on the right side of a power dynamic); whether or not he knows it was wrong (he does now); what he’ll do about it (listen).
There is a lot not to love about C.K.’s statement — the self-aggrandizing way he talks about how he was “admired” by these women, for instance, or the nagging insincerity behind a boiler-plate sentiment like, “I’m hurting, but it’s nothing compared to what these women have been through.” It works pretty hard to convey how he’s come to understand privilege, power and now remorse. But there are four words, right near the top, that hit pretty hard: “These stories are true.”
Since the Times broke the Harvey Weinstein story, the news cycle has been flooded with allegations of sexual misconduct, harassment, assault and rape, some dating back decades. The accused typically responds with a statement – either a flat-out denial, or an apology that often feels so unsatisfying, it might as well not have been said at all. The level of dancing that takes place in the latter — men having “no memory” of an incident, but apologizing for “any harm caused,” or qualifying an apology by citing “a different time,” or using a marginalized community as a shield (what up, Kevin Spacey) — is something to behold. These drawn-out explanations are really lame attempts at self-protection, and distract from the thing that matters most: These stories are true.
So thank you, Louis C.K., for getting that right, at least. Below is C.K.’s full statement, as posted by The New York Times:
I want to address the stories told to The New York Times by five women named Abby, Rebecca, Dana, Julia who felt able to name themselves and one who did not.
These stories are true. At the time, I said to myself that what I did was O.K. because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true. But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly. I have been remorseful of my actions. And I’ve tried to learn from them. And run from them. Now I’m aware of the extent of the impact of my actions. I learned yesterday the extent to which I left these women who admired me feeling badly about themselves and cautious around other men who would never have put them in that position. I also took advantage of the fact that I was widely admired in my and their community, which disabled them from sharing their story and brought hardship to them when they tried because people who look up to me didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t think that I was doing any of that because my position allowed me not to think about it. There is nothing about this that I forgive myself for. And I have to reconcile it with who I am. Which is nothing compared to the task I left them with. I wish I had reacted to their admiration of me by being a good example to them as a man and given them some guidance as a comedian, including because I admired their work.
The hardest regret to live with is what you’ve done to hurt someone else. And I can hardly wrap my head around the scope of hurt I brought on them. I’d be remiss to exclude the hurt that I’ve brought on people who I work with and have worked with who’s professional and personal lives have been impacted by all of this, including projects currently in production: the cast and crew of Better Things, Baskets, The Cops, One Mississippi, and I Love You, Daddy. I deeply regret that this has brought negative attention to my manager Dave Becky who only tried to mediate a situation that I caused. I’ve brought anguish and hardship to the people at FX who have given me so much The Orchard who took a chance on my movie. and every other entity that has bet on me through the years. I’ve brought pain to my family, my friends, my children and their mother.
I have spent my long and lucky career talking and saying anything I want. I will now step back and take a long time to listen. Thank you for reading.