It’s not surprising that John Oliver confronted Dustin Hoffman about sexual harassment allegations against the actor at a 20th anniversary panel for “Wag the Dog” last year. After all, the 1997 film itself is about the burying of a sex scandal.
It seems the only person unprepared for the question was Hoffman.
“That was a case of doing a favor for that charity and the ’Wag the Dog’ screening, and then feeling like I had to bring it up,” Oliver explained during a round table discussion with press for his HBO show “Last Week Tonight” on Monday. “It was kind of like an internal barometer again, right? I just felt it would’ve been very weird not to bring it up.”
While moderating the panel benefitting the Tribeca Film Institute, Oliver questioned Hoffman about the actor’s apology following allegations he harassed a 17-year-old intern on the set of the 1985 TV movie, “Death of a Salesman.”
Hoffman said his behavior wasn’t “reflective” of who he is, which Oliver said felt like a “cop out.” That’s when the panel discussion turned into a heated exchange.
The actor reportedly felt blindsided by Oliver’s questioning. And Oliver still doesn’t understand why.
“I was surprised that he turned up in the first place,” said Oliver.
“The Gotham Film Awards were the previous week, and they hadn’t done red carpet interviews, so it felt like he should’ve been aware that he was going to have to answer to this the next time he answered to anything,” Oliver said. “And then I’m staggered if he honestly thought I wasn’t going to bring it up. I don’t know how little he would have to think of me to think that I wouldn’t bring that up.”
Essentially, said Oliver, whoever ended up speaking publicly with Hoffman had a responsibility to bring up the allegations. That person just turned out to be Oliver.
He does not, however, think he did a better job of questioning Hoffman than a journalist, adding, “I have to believe most people would’ve asked him about it, and then the only reason the conversation kept going was that his responses were pretty bad.”
Oliver said he wanted to get Hoffman to a point of “self-reflection” to salvage something from their exchange, but it “didn’t happen.”
Following the panel discussion, Oliver faced his fair share of critics, including Alec Baldwin, who said late-night hosts are acting too much like “grand juries.”
On Monday, we pointed to Baldwin’s comments and asked Oliver if he felt a responsibility to address certain topics in the news.
Speaking about “Last Week Tonight,” he said, “I guess it feels like if there’s a particular aberration that has taken place, whether it’s like a Charlottesville comment or something … it feels like we have to address it at the top of the show because to not address it would almost seem like an editorial decision.”
But there’s one issue the comedian is perfectly fine letting others handle: the legendary “Trump pee tape.” When asked whether the “Last Week Tonight” team is close to locating the alleged tape, Oliver replied:
We’re not that close. If I had it, I’d play it for you on my phone right now. Yeah, I don’t know. I will say we’ve not been looking. I think there are other people that really should be doing that.
That’s just one possible leak he’s not touching.