The family of Hollywood manager and producer Jill Messick is speaking out after their loved one took her own life Wednesday. In an open letter, they are cautioning people to be careful about who they believe when it comes to the #MeToo movement.
What's the background?
Messick, 50, was a former manager to Rose McGowan, one of the women instrumental in helping to propel the #MeToo movement forward. McGowan has said she was raped and assaulted by disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein.
At this time, more than 90 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct, ranging from sexual harassment to rape.
Weinstein has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex with his accusers.
Messick was McGowan's manager at the time of McGowan's alleged 1997 rape. McGowan has been extremely vocal in blaming Messick for being complicit in keeping reports of the attack quiet and for not doing more to prevent further alleged attacks on other women.
Messick was instrumental in setting up the fateful meeting between McGowan and Weinstein during the Sundance Film Festival in 1997 where McGowan alleges Weinstein raped her.
In her new book, "Brave," McGowen pointed to Messick as doing little to help her in the wake of her alleged sexual assault. She has also noted that Messick reportedly took a job with Weinstein despite knowing about the alleged sexual assault.
What are the details of the letter?
Messick's family released an open letter on Thursday, appearing to condemn certain aspects of the #MeToo movement.
Describing Messick's mental health as problematic, the former manager's family said that Messick became "collateral damage in an already horrific story."
Messick, who her family reported battled depression and bipolar disorder through the years, reportedly opted to hold her tongue when McGowan came out swinging, because Messick believed in the #MeToo movement. The producer's family added that even though her name was dragged through the mud, Messick decided to remain silent.
"Now that Jill can no longer speak for herself, it’s time to set the record straight," a portion of the letter read.
Messick's family went on to describe how their loved one was "victimized" by the "new culture of unlimited information sharing and a willingness to accept statement as fact," and branded some of McGowan's remarks about Messick as "slanderous statements."
"She supported every woman finally coming forward to share their dark truths and expose those who had committed previously unspeakable deeds," the letter continued. "She was loyal. She was strong. Jill was many things, but she was not a liar."
Messick's family went on to describe their version of events of the meeting between Weinstein and McGowan.
Following the meeting [between McGowan and Weinstein] Rose told Jill what had happened — that she made the decision to remove her clothes and get in the hot tub with him — a mistake which Rose immediately regretted. Rose never once used the word rape in that conversation. Despite this, Jill recognized that Harvey had done something untoward to Rose, if not illegal. She immediately went to her bosses, the partners of Addis Wechsler, to recount Rose’s story and to insist that they immediately address the situation. They told Jill that they would handle the situation. The ensuing arrangements between Rose and Harvey were then negotiated, completely without Jill’s knowledge. At that time, all Jill knew was that the matter was settled and that Rose continued making films with the Weinsteins. She never knew any details until recently, when Rose elected to make them public.
Messick reportedly emailed Weinstein "months prior to the first New York Times piece coming out," at the request of Weinstein.
In this email, Jill offered the truth based on what she remembers Rose telling her about the Sundance account. In the face of Rose’s continued and embellished accusations last week, Harvey took it upon himself to release the email without her consent.
Weinstein and his lawyer would later use this email to refute claims that he raped McGowan and to show that any sex act between the two was consensual. That email was released Jan. 30.
The letter continued, noting Messick's mental health struggles, and noted that "with the help of doctors, her family and friends" Messick was able to rebound and put her life back together after a particularly bad mental health episode five years ago.
Seeing her name in headlines again and again, as part of one person’s attempt to gain more attention for her personal cause, along with Harvey’s desperate attempt to vindicate himself, was devastating for her. It broke Jill, who was just starting to get her life back on track. What makes Rose’s inaccurate accusations and insinuations against Jill ironic was that she was the first person who stood up on Rose’s behalf, and alerted her bosses to the horrific experience which Rose suffered. Twenty years ago, as a very junior person in a management company hierarchy, Jill exhibited her integrity in doing the right thing — she raised the red flag with the heads of her firm. In the face of inappropriate behavior, Jill handled the situation appropriately.
The letter went on to add that journalists should be accountable for more than just "exposing predatory behavior," and should ensure to avoid sensationalism and "inconsistent storytelling," wielding the power of the media responsibly.
"There is a responsibility when using a platform to accurately expose criminals, predators, mistruths and misdeeds while protecting the actual truth of third parties," the letter admonished.
The letter concluded:
As we collectively seek to take action in an effort to right the wrongs so brazenly and inhumanely repeated for a generation, we must not forget one simple truth: Words have power. While we illuminate the dark corners for hidden truths, we must remember that what we say, particularly in the media, can have just as much impact if not more than our actions. We must ask more of ourselves, and of each other. We must take a moment to consider the ramifications and consequences of what we say and what we do.
Someone’s life may depend on it.
McGowan had not commented publicly on Messick's death at this time.