World-renowned Swedish opera singer Anne Sofie von Otter is speaking out publicly against the #MeToo movement, which she has blamed for her husband's suicide earlier this year.
The 63-year-old widow, and mother of two, said the #MeToo movement created a herd mentality that threatened “independent, critical thinking.” Von Otter said her husband of 16 years, Benny Fredriksson, spiraled into the "deepest depression" following accusations of sexual harassment against him and, ultimately, took his own life March 17.
“You can break a person,” she told Die Zeit, a weekly newspaper in Hamburg, Germany.
In December, Swedish media published allegations against Fredriksson, who led Stockholm’s Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, the capital’s premier arts and culture center. The 58-year-old was accused of harassing his employees, tolerating sexual abuse and behaving like a “capricious dictator."
Fredriksson committed suicide in Sydney, where he had accompanied his wife, who was on tour.
What were the accusations?
The tabloid, Aftonbladet, published allegations from dozens of anonymous sources who described a culture fear and harassment under Fredriksson's leadership, according to The Washington Post.
It claimed that Fredriksson had required an actor to rehearse naked, had given a pregnant employee the option of an abortion or forfeiting her role and that he had protected men who were accused of sexual abuse.
In Expressen, another tabloid, an actor called Fredriksson a “little Hitler.”
Were the claims ever substantiated?
An internal investigation conducted by the city did not substantiate the published claims.
What did the newspaper say?
Aftonbladet's publisher, Lena K. Samuelsson, confirmed to The Post that Sweden's ombudsman had launched an independent review and it is awaiting a decision.
Samuelsson called Fredriksson’s death a “tragedy” but defended publishing the story in a statement to The Post.
The publisher also admitted that coverage “might have been” shaped by “the turmoils of the Me Too movement,” adding there is "certainly room for self-criticism.”
What else did von Otter say?
The opera singer was in London with her youngest son when the headlines emerged, she said, adding that Fredriksson quickly decided to leave his job.
“Benny was not a womanizer, he didn’t look at women’s breasts or behinds,” Von Otter said.
When no one came to his defense publicly, she said he fell into a depression.
Von Otter has fiercely defended her husband, and said people feared being “dragged into the muck by the media.”
“We all have good and bad sides, but we no longer live in the Middle Ages,” she said. “We do not publicly pillory anyone and spit on or stone him or her.”