Comedian/actor Louis C.K. has taken the high road in responding to his share of the wave of accusations coming at various show business and pop culture figures following the launch of the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck with its Kevin Spacey caboose. The New York Times recently revealed the certifiably awful stories of C.K.’s disgusting conduct toward five women, and subsequent show business sources have confirmed that “everybody knew” Louis was abusing his influence and power to harass women. Now the often thoughtful and provocative comic is fighting for his professional life, and has evidently decided that the wisest course is to be accountable, remorseful and contrite. Here is his statement:
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 okay 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 whose 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.
Analysis: The man is, as his fans know, very articulate and intelligent. What I do not understand is any even slightly intelligent man doing the things he just admitted to. C.K. often reflects on ethics competently,so I know he knows what ethics are; he’s not like President Trump, who literally does not comprehend the subject. How can someone like C.K., who must have some sophisticated ethics alarms at least stored in his brain’s attic or closets, even consider behaving in the ways described by the Times? Who meets a woman for the first time, exchanges pleasantries, and then says, “I’m going to masturbate in front of you now.” What? NOW Louis realizes this was wrong?
It’s like the famous Seinfeld episode when George tries to brass his way out of being fired for having sex on his desk with his company’s cleaning woman. “Was that wrong? Should I not have done that?” he asks, as if it was a genuine moral conundrum. I confess,C.K’s kind of thinking, or absence of thinking, is alien to me. I don’t get it, and I really can’t grasp someone engaging in such conduct who can form coherent thoughts and write like the comic does. I would expect someone who thinks it,s acceptable to masturbate in front of visitors to be only able to communicate in grunts, clicks, and crude hand gestures,
At the risk of sounding naive, I must confess that I also can’t imagine any woman I have ever known in my life tolerating such a thing. Every one of them would erupt in some version of “What the HELL do you think you are doing, you disgusting freak? I’m out of here,” followed by a rapid exit and a call to the police. I’m not blaming the victims, I just don’t understand. I also don’t understand how any man would expect a different reaction. Clearly,Louis dwells on a planet distinct from the one I live on, and I have no intention of vacationing there.
How does his statement ranks on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale? It’s a #1…
An apology motivated by the realization that one’s past conduct was unjust, unfair, and wrong, constituting an unequivocal admission of wrongdoing as well as regret, remorse and contrition, as part of a sincere effort to make amends and seek forgiveness.
This assumes that the statement is sincere, and is not cynical manipulation by a smart man who knows what he needs to say. I suppose that Louis’s sudden realization (that consent fueled by someone’s desire to please or cater to a more powerful or influential figure can be nothing more than capitulation to subtle coercion) is credible. It definitely is a concept a lot of people don’t grasp.
Is his apology and contrition enough to save him? Once again we have a cognitive dissonance scale issue.
How low on the scale (above) is C.K.’s conduct, and how high was he as an entertainer? If he’s high enough for them, some people will decide that masturbation isn’t so bad as a way to entertain female guests, just as some evangelical supporters of Roy Moore are now making absurd arguments that the Bible endorses creepy old men having sex with teenieboppers. If your personal scale has to crash through the floor to properly place what Louis C.K. did, like my scale does (I’d place that conduct at about negative 763, 877, 207, 248), I’m not watching the guy, because I won’t find him funny.
Why can’t we hate the sin but love the sinner?… Should we consume the intellectual work product of a mind that causes a man to behave the way Louis C.K. has done?
…By the way, if you’re thinking of reconsidering all the intellectual work product you consume — movies, TV shows, books, political arguments — here’s a great place to start: “Intellectuals” by Paul Johnson. Johnson shows why you won’t want to consume what’s been cooked up by Rousseau, Shelley, Marx, Ibsen, Tolstoy, Hemingway, Bertrand Russell, Brecht, Sartre, Norman Mailer, James Baldwin, and Noam Chomsky.
Huh? These people are writers, thinkers and philosophers, not entertainers. As with Thomas Jefferson, I don’t have to like the thinker to be able to admire the quality of his ideas. Entertainers, however, at least for me, cannot separate their persona from their art, because their person is the conveyor of their art. If the package is disgusting, I’m not going to be delighted with the contents. Ideas stand on their own. Comedy requires a likable and benign vehicle. I can’t laugh at Woody Allen or Bill Cosby any more. I’m also not going to laugh at someone who masturbates for visitors, even if he tells the funniest joke in history.