John Oliver has some follow-up thoughts on his very blunt, very satisfying questioning of Dustin Hoffman earlier this month. Appearing on the Russell Howard Hour in his native U.K. on Friday, Oliver expressed regret that the confrontation—over Hoffman’s response to allegations of sexual harassment against him by Anna Graham Hunter—wasn’t more constructive.
Starting at around 9:40 in the clip below, host Russell Howard congratulated Oliver on “taking down Dustin Hoffman,” praise that the Last Week Tonight host brushed aside.
Oliver said he felt he had a responsibility to raise the allegations, calling it “unavoidable.” Though Hoffman was not forewarned, Oliver said he had informed the event organizers of his intended line of inquiry, even going so far as to tell them they would need to find someone else to moderate the Wag the Dog post-screening panel if they didn’t want the topic raised.
“It felt unavoidable that we had to have a discussion about it,” said Oliver. “It wasn’t ideal that it became such a big story because I think it became about my questions rather than his answers. My questions were not particularly remarkable; his answers were kind of not great.”
“Not great” is an understatement. During the excruciating interaction, Hoffman further walked back his already hedging apology, emphasizing the if in “if I did anything that was out of sorts or embarrassed her, I apologize.” He also admonished Oliver for believing everything he reads, implying the allegations were made up.
Oliver told Howard he found the outcome disappointing. “It didn’t really go anywhere constructive, so the whole thing made me sad,” he said. “I did try. I tried and failed.”
There was only one public allegation at the time of the Wag the Dog panel, but Oliver said on Friday that he had known there would be more where that came from.
Though Hoffman himself seemed unable to grasp the difference between jovial on-set behavior and sexual harassment, Oliver ought to feel vindicated for his early, aggressive questioning. Multiple other women have since come forward to accuse the 80-year-old actor of harassment, bordering on assault, in stories that align closely with Hunter’s. Hoffman has not commented publicly on any of the ensuing allegations, nor will he have to if he chooses not to give any interviews. While the conversation was intensely divisive, Oliver should be proud that he took the opportunity to call out one of Hollywood’s most powerful men while he had the chance.
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