Matt Damon draws backlash for comments on sexual harassment and assault

Damon tried to categorize forms of sexual misconduct in "Popcorn" interview.

December 18, 2017, 3:38 PM

— -- Matt Damon has drawn heated criticism for his comments on ABC's "Popcorn" in which he said all men accused of sexual harassment and assault shouldn't be lumped together because "there's a spectrum of behavior."

"There’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right?" he told host Peter Travers Thursday while speaking about the national reckoning on sexual misconduct taking place in Hollywood, politics, the media and more. "Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated, right?"

Alyssa Milano and Damon's "Good Will Hunting" co-star Minnie Driver strongly disagreed and chastised Damon for categorizing various forms of sexual misconduct.

"I have been a victim of each component of the sexual assault spectrum of which you speak. They all hurt," Milano, who helped spark the #MeToo movement, wrote on Twitter Friday. "And they are all connected to a patriarchy intertwined with normalized, accepted -- even welcomed -- misogyny."

PHOTO: Alyssa Milano attends an event on Jan. 8, 2017, in Los Angeles.
Alyssa Milano attends an event on Jan. 8, 2017, in Los Angeles.
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic via Getty Images

Milano addressed Damon in a series of tweets, comparing sexual misconduct to cancer. "There are different stages of cancer. Some more treatable than others. But it’s still cancer," she wrote.

PHOTO: Matt Damon responds to the Harvey Weinstein scandal that is rocking Hollywood in an interview with ABC News' Michael Strahan.
Matt Damon responds to the Harvey Weinstein scandal that is rocking Hollywood in an interview with ABC News' Michael Strahan.
ABC News

Driver also responded on Twitter.

She later elaborated on her reaction in an interview with The Guardian published on Sunday.

"I felt I desperately needed to say something. I’ve realized that most men, good men, the men that I love, there is a cut-off in their ability to understand. They simply cannot understand what abuse is like on a daily level," the British-born actress told the newspaper.

"I honestly think that until we get on the same page, you can’t tell a woman about their abuse. A man cannot do that. No one can. It is so individual and so personal, it’s galling when a powerful man steps up and starts dictating the terms, whether he intends it or not."

In his interview, Damon said Minnesota Democratic Senator Al Franken, who recently stepped down following sexual harassment allegations, should not be compared to Harvey Weinstein, who is accused of multiple allegations of sexual harassment, assault and even rape. He also commended Louis CK, who was accused by multiple women of masturbating in front of them, for taking "personal responsibility" for his actions.

Franken apologized for his actions and acknowledged some wrongdoing. Weinstein has acknowledged inappropriate behavior, but has denied any allegations of nonconsensual sex or retaliation against women for refusing his advances. Louis CK acknowledged that "these stories are true" and expressed regret for the hurt caused.

"We live in this culture of outrage and injury, and, you know, that we’re going to have to correct enough to kind of go, 'Wait a minute. None of us came here perfect,'" Damon said.

Milano seized on Damon's comment, defending the rage that women and other victims feel.

Driver said what is needed now is for "good intelligent men to say this is all bad across the board, condemn it all and start again."

Beyond that, she urged them to be quiet and listen.

"Let women do the speaking up right now," she told The Guardian. "The time right now is for men just to listen and not have an opinion about it for once."

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