On April 30, 2012 in New York, Harvey Weinstein bears his Legion of Honour, received a few days earlier.
Andrew H. Walker / WireImage for Moet et Chandon
Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has been accused of sexual assault and sexual harassment by numerous women over the course of the past week. At 65, one of the best-known Hollywood producers has now fallen after reports from the New York Times and the New Yorker that reveal years of alleged misconduct. Several of his victims are French, such as Judith Godrèche, Emma de Caunes, and Léa Seydoux. “We were talking on the sofa when he suddenly jumped on me and tried to kiss me. I had to defend myself. He’s tall, and fat, so I had to resist vigorously. I left, completely disgusted,” Seydoux told The Guardian.
Weinstein was fired by his production company, The Weinstein Company, and was also suspended from the British Academy of Film, which hands out the prestigious BAFTA awards each year, due to his “unacceptable” behavior. But can he lose his Legion of Honour, the highest French order?
Weinstein was made a knight of the Legion of Honour by then French president Nicolas Sarkozy in March 2012. It was shortly after the release of The Artist, which had received five Oscars.
Weinstein on the front steps of the Élysée with his then-wife Georgina Chapman, after receiving his Legion of Honour by former President Nicolas Sarkozy on March 7, 2012.
Eric Feferberg / AFP / Getty Images
For Sarkozy, it was a gesture to pay tribute to the work of Weinstein, who in 1979, had co-founded the Miramax company, and then The Weinstein Company in 2005. Among the feature films he produced are Pulp Fiction (1994), Shakespeare in Love (1998), and The King’s Speech (2010).
In a letter to the producer, Sarkozy had shared with Weinstein “the admiration of millions of French citizens:”
“The prestigious distinction, that I give to you in person, is a testament to the admiration of millions of French citizens for the exceptional quality of the films you have produced.
I would like to express my appreciation to you. You have always demonstrated a deep friendship for our country and our cinema that you have introduced to so many Americans.”
Considering the scandals that are tarnishing the producer, can his Legion of Honour, that being the highest French distinction, be taken from him?
On its website, the Grand Chancellery of the Legion of Honour explains in fact that the distinction can be removed in the case of a criminal conviction and when the recipient has committed acts “contrary to honor,” or detrimental to the interests of France. It explains also that the exclusionary act is announced by decree.
Weinstein was fired by his company (after a decision from its board of directors), but no complaint has been filed against him yet. On Thursday, the New York Police Department opened an inquiry on a potential sexual assault from 2004. But for now, Weinstein has not been criminally convicted.
“The general rule is to wait for a final criminal decision before starting a disciplinary procedure,” explains the Chancellery to BuzzFeed News. It adds:
“This procedure involves the Grand Chancellor and council of the Order of the Legion of Honour, as well as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the President of the Republic, Grand Master of the Legion of Honour.”
Can the Legion of Honour therefore be taken from him for having harmed the honor? On this, the Chancellery explains:
“Regarding acts contrary to honor, this is generally done on a case-by-case basis. But at this time, it is too early to know what will happen. It is not a decision to be taken spontaneously. We have to leave time to see things more clearly.”
When contacted by BuzzFeed News, the Ministry of Culture indicated that they “followed the matter at this time without being able to provide information.” The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not yet responded, nor has the President’s cabinet. As for Sarkozy’s cabinet, it indicated to BuzzFeed News that the former head of state could not respond.
If the Legion of Honour was to be taken from the fallen Hollywood tycoon, this would not be the first time. In 2014, cyclist Lance Armstrong was deprived of his distinction (received in 2005) for “failure contrary to honor,” after being convicted of doping. British designer John Galliano also lost his Legion of Honour in 2012 (he had received it in 2009) after being condemned for anti-Semitic insults in 2011.
This post was translated from French.