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Kevin Spacey's response to sexual assault allegations elicits online backlash

Kevin Spacey's response to sexual assault allegations elicits online backlash


Spacey’s public relations move is callous and misguided

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Last night, in an interview with BuzzFeed News, actor Anthony Rapp alleged that Kevin Spacey had made unwanted sexual advances toward him in 1986, when Rapp was just 14 and Spacey was 26. Several hours later, Spacey posted a weak apology on Twitter, claiming that he didn’t remember the event, while also calling it “inappropriate drunken behavior.”

Then, in the same apology note, Spacey takes the time to announce that he has chosen to “live as a gay man.” This attempt to shift attention from Rapp’s allegations has been widely met with backlash online, as people point out that not only is Spacey’s coming-out a calculated public relations move, but it also reinforces dated and dangerous stereotypes that conflate homosexuality with pedophilia.

As Ira Madison notes at The Daily Beast, Spacey’s PR efforts were at least partially successful, as many news outlets initially reported his sexuality as the main story. Madison reports that ABC News wrote a story that read, “Kevin Spacey comes out in emotional tweet,” that has since been edited. The Independent also begins its headline with Spacey’s coming-out story, although it does mention Rapp’s allegations.

Meanwhile, people on Twitter have critiqued Spacey for using the announcement of his previously private sexuality as a way to rebound from serious allegations of assault.

Social media has been a useful tool for calling out sexual harassment and assault in the wake of the numerous allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and many others. Weinstein’s downfall has prompted a domino effect, as men from all industries have been accused of similar abuse, resulting in several firings and resignations. Spacey is just the latest powerful man in this lineup of alleged abusers, though he’s the only one who has managed to link harassment and predatory behavior toward children with an entire group of marginalized people.