Richard Meier is accused of sexual harassment and it feels like a repeat of Weinstein

Five women have come forward to accuse the 83-year-old award-winning architect

March 14, 2018 07:51

Another prominent American Jewish man has been publicly accused of being a serial sexual harasser. In a year that has already destroyed the reputations of producer Harvey Weinstein, actor Dustin Hoffman and Senator Al Franken, we can add an architect to the list: Richard Meier.

Mr Meier, 83, is the son of a liquor wholesaler from Newark, New Jersey, a city some ten miles west of Manhattan.

His firm, Richard Meier & Partners Architects, designed a number of starkly beautiful white stone buildings, from the The Hague's city hall to the Getty Center in Los Angeles. In 1984, he was awarded the Pritzker Prize, a kind of Nobel Prize for architects.

But according to the New York Times, Mr Meier is also responsible for less laudable achievements.

Over the course of his storied architectural career, he is reported to have exposed himself to two younger female employees, grabbed a third employee by her underwear, and asked a fourth if he could take naked pictures of her.

A fifth woman, this one not in his employ, was thrown into bed and struggled until she fled his house in fear.

What’s interesting and depressing in equal measure is that this story bears a number of similarities to that of Mr Weinstein.

Like the film producer, Mr Meier was an advocate for women’s causes: he established a scholarship for promising female graduates students at Cornell University, his prestigious alma mater. And they both liked to expose themselves while wearing a bathrobe.

One 24-year-old assistant was tasked with helping Mr Meier at his home as he worked on his collages, some of which included images of nude women. After a few such working sessions, he allegedly exposed himself to her.

It is no secret that many such cases are unreported or ignored. In another case, the victim spoke up to the appropriate executives and reportedly received a $150,000 (£107,000) settlement in exchange for her silence.

The firm held sexual harassment training seminars and Mr Meier apparently took part as well, but it is unclear if some of the other incidents occurred before or after the seminars.

Hopefully we have reached a watershed moment where older successful men — or men, full stop — will no longer use positions of power to humiliate and assault women.

But I am not optimistic: remember Mel Gibson was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend and had a public antisemitic meltdown. After some abject public apologies, his career has recovered nicely, at least as a filmmaker.

The immediate consequences for Mr Meier are tepid.

He is taking a six-month leave from his firm, and his public statement seems carefully crafted to avoid responsibility, and perhaps more tellingly, liability: “While our recollections may differ, I sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by my behavior.”

March 14, 2018 07:51

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