Manchester by the Sea director Kenneth Lonergan is defending his film’s embattled Oscar-winning star, Casey Affleck. The director, 54, penned a passionate response to a post published by his alma mater Wesleyan University’s newspaper, The Wesleyan Argus, which argued that the university was “complicit” in Affleck’s success by “endorsing” Lonergan’s Oscar win for Best Screenplay.
In the op-ed piece by assistant opinion editor Connor Aberle, the class of 2019 student wrote that in the university’s praise of Lonergan, they should have also acknowledged Affleck’s prior sexual harassment lawsuits. “Wesleyan University has an obligation to reject sexual violence of all kinds,” Aberle wrote. “Therefore, it cannot claim credit for Lonergan’s success without also recognizing his role in promoting Casey Affleck’s career. Wesleyan must either be cautious in its alumni praise, or it must admit to its students that it cares only about building the Wesleyan University brand rather than social justice or the well-being of the Wesleyan community.”
Affleck, who took home the Oscar for best actor for his performance in the drama, was accused of sexual harassment by two women he worked with on I’m Still Here in 2010. As previously reported, the actor vehemently denied the accusations — calling them a form of “extortion” in 2010 — and both lawsuits were settled out of court.
In Lonergan’s response to the student’s op-ed, he slammed it as slander.
“Connor Aberle’s article about myself, Casey, Affleck and Wesleyan’s supposed complicity in condoning sexual misconduct — and worse — by tauting me as a Wesleyan alumn after I won an Oscar last week is such a tangle of illogic, misinformation and flat-out slander that only the author’s presumed youth can possibly excuse his deeply offensive display of ignorance, and warped PC-fueled sense of indignation,” Lonergan wrote in the letter published to the newspaper’s website on March 4. “He writes as if Casey Affleck were actually guilty of a crime. … Like most civil suits, this one was settled out of court by mutual consent on undisclosed terms … In other words nothing was proved or disproved. So how does Mr Aberle dare to write as if he knows who was telling the truth and who was not?”
Lonergan concluded that Aberle should “unwind his tangled, immoral chain of reasoning and start over at the fundamental precept that an allegation is not an indictment” and that he hopes the student “is capable of taking a much harder look at the merits of his own arguments before he decides to air his views in public again.”
Affleck, who faced backlash for his win last month and at the awards show, also recently addressed the allegations, telling the Boston Globe: “I believe that any kind of mistreatment of anyone for any reason is unacceptable and abhorrent, and everyone deserves to be treated with respect in the workplace and anywhere else.”
“There’s really nothing I can do about it,” he concluded of the scandal. “Other than live my life the way I know I live it and to speak to what my own values are and how I try to live by them all the time.”