Celebs Who Were Silenced

In December 2017, Time named "The Silence Breakers" as their Person of the Year. It was a recognition of the sweeping #MeToo movement that started online and gained traction after The New York Times and The New Yorker published scathing exposes detailing decades of alleged abuse by disgraced Hollywood mogul, Harvey Weinstein. Emboldened by the accusers who faced Weinstein, men and women of all industries began to come forward and tell their own stories of abuse, as well as the silencing and cover-up attempts that came with it.

One of the primary tools used to silence victims is the non-disclosure agreement or NDA. Generally speaking, NDAs are a commonplace method used by many businesses as a way "to protect the secrecy of confidential information given to another party," according to Forbes. However, NDAs have also been used in conjunction with settlements paid out to alleged abuse victims.

Though the #MeToo movement has only recently, as of this writing, shattered the culture of silence, the quieting of stars through prohibitive contracts and intimidation tactics has a long, dark history in Hollywood. These are the celebs who were silenced.

A thorn in Harvey Wenstein's side

Actress and feminist activist Rose McGowan has become one of the most outspoken of the over 80 women who accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct, harassment, and assault. Speaking with The New York Times, McGowan claimed that Weinstein assaulted her in 1997 in his hotel suite. Afterwards, McGowan's manager, Jill Messick, was allegedly unsupportive of her decision to take legal action. Instead, Messick negotiated McGowan a private $100,000 settlement, then later took a job working for the studio Weinstein ran at the time, Miramax. McGowan remained quiet about the settlement until 2017, when she discovered the settlement did not include "a confidentiality clause" like she previously believed it had.

Though she wasn't legally silenced, McGowan told The New York Times that her film career suffered as a result of her alienation from Miramax. She turned to independent films, but ultimately became disenchanted with the film industry entirely.

"I have been silenced for 20 years," McGowan later said at the Women's Convention in Detroit (via The Guardian). "What happened to me behind the scenes happens to all of us in this society. It cannot stand and will not stand."

McGowan also told The New York Times that Weinstein did eventually ask her to sign a nondisclosure agreement in exchange for $1 million— just days ahead of the exposes that would ultimately tear him down. "I don't want your money, that would make me feel disgusting" she said of her refusal to his offer.

Turning outrage into activism

Also empowered by #MeToo, actress Reese Witherspoon told her own story of being shamed and silenced following an alleged assault by a film director. Speaking at ELLE's Women in Hollywood event, Witherspoon said she was just 16-years-old when the alleged assault occurred, after which her "agents and the producers" made her "feel that silence was a condition of my employment." She also stated that the assault was not "an isolated incident," and that she's "had multiple experiences of harassment and sexual assault."   

Soon after the revelation, Witherspoon became instrumental in organizing Time's Up, the legal defense fund and outreach group whose mission is to address "the systemic inequality and injustice in the workplace that have kept underrepresented groups from reaching their full potential." Time's Up famously made its public debut at The 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards when Witherspoon, and almost every other actor in attendance, wore black in solidarity of the movement.

After winning the award for Best Limited Series for her HBO show, Big Little Lies, Witherspoon spoke on behalf of the movement during her acceptance speech, specifically addressing abuse survivors, who inspired the characters portrayed on the show. "You are so brave and hopefully shows like this, more will be made," She said. "So people out there who are feeling silenced by harassment, discrimination, abuse: Time is up. We see you. We hear you. And we will tell your stories."

Trump's Forecast: Cloudy with a chance of subpeonas

Just 10 days ahead of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, adult actress Stephanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels, entered into a nondisclosure agreement with then-candidate Donald Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen. In exchange for $130,000, Daniels was "not to disclose any confidential information about Trump or his sexual partners to anyone beyond a short list of individuals... or share any texts or photos from Trump." Daniels later sued Trump, alleging the agreement was invalid, since he never signed it.

When Daniels began speaking out, Cohen attempted to enforce the NDA by suing Daniels for $20 million— $1 million for each of the times Cohen alleges Daniels violated the DNA. In spite of this threat, Daniels revealed to 60 Minutes details of her alleged sexual encounter with Trump at a 2006 celebrity golf tournament. She also said she signed an additional letter drafted by Cohen which denied the affair in the wake of the original NDA being made public by The Wall Street Journal, because she claims she was told that if she didn't, "They can make your life hell in many different ways."

As of this writing, Daniels' lawsuit is on hold due to the FBI's criminal investigation into Cohen's business practices, but she has continued to speak out. She told The View that she's risking the legal repercussions of telling her story, because she's "tired of being threatened."

"I'm done," Daniels added. "I'm done being bullied."

Selma's scary audition

Cruel Intentions star Selma Blair added her voice to the #MeToo chorus when she revealed an alleged encounter with director James Toback. Speaking with Vanity Fair, Blair said during a meeting in Toback's hotel room, he attempted to get her to perform a monologue naked, then propositioned her for sex. When she declined, he allegedly threatened her, and forced her to watch him commit indecent acts on himself.

Blair claims she never told anyone except her boyfriend, because Toback said he had "people who will pull up in a car, kidnap her, and throw her in the Hudson River with cement blocks on her feet." But when similar stories about Toback began to surface, she felt "pure rage," and broke her silence.

"I would like to see Toback admit this happened," she said. "What I do want, in my dreams, is for someone bigger than me to call him out. I want to light the pyre of public opinion."

Toback, who has been accused of sexual misconduct, harassment, and assault by over 300 women, responded to the allegations to Rolling Stone by mocking the #MeToo movement as "too stupid to waste time on," and denying ever meeting several of his accusers. In April 2018, The LA County District Attorney's office decided not to charge Toback in five cases relating to the allegations, because of the expired statute of limitations. However, in three of those cases, they did conclude that Toback "may have committed sexual battery."

Does Chachi have a dark side?

Actress Nicole Eggert broke her decades long silence when she accused her Charles in Charge co-star, Scott Baio, of molesting her, and having sex with her when she was underage. Eggert first made her claims on Twitter, then on Megyn Kelly Today and The Dr. Oz Show (via People).

Alleging the abuse occurred in the late 80s, starting when she was 14, Eggert told Megyn Kelly she kept quiet out of shame. Eggert said Baio allegedly warned her, "You can't tell anybody, this is illegal, I will go to jail. The show will be over, everyone will be sued. You will be out of a job, you will ruin everybody's life." She also told Kelly the only time she and Baio had sex, she was a "willing participant to an extent," but she was only 17, younger than California's legal age of consent.

Baio vehemently denied Eggert's claims, citing contradictory accounts Eggert had previously given in the past, which she explained as her way of "protecting the show." Baio also implored Eggert to pursue a police investigation, which she did, but no charges were brought due to the expired statute of limitations.

Asked by TMZ how she felt about the outcome, Eggert said she knew charges wouldn't be filed, but pursued it because she "felt a responsibility to do it for any other victims who wanted to come forward, and for parents that would think to leave their children alone with [Baio]."

Sorry Kardashians, but NDAs don't work this way

In July 2015, the drama between Rob Kardashian and Blac Chyna, his then-fiance and baby mama, hit a jaw-dropping low when Kardashian went on a social media blitz, posting naked photos of Chyna, and accusing her of cheating and abusing drugs in front of their daughter. Chyna responded by lawyering up, getting a restraining order against Kardashian, and appearing on Good Morning America to publicly decry Kardashian's actions.

In response to Chyna's GMA interview, Kim Kardashian's representatives "emailed ABC News a non disclosure agreement Chyna signed as a condition of her appearance on the Kardashian reality shows." The move was viewed as "a genius response," according to entertainment lawyer James Sammataro, who told BuzzFeed, "Rather than just give a 'no comment,' which does nothing, this is essentially a 'no comment' with a veiled threat behind it."

That threat, however, didn't matter to Chyna, who not only told GMA that she was just glad she could put this whole ugly scenario behind her, but that she could hopefully serve as an example for other women who are afraid to speak out. "You know, you're not the only one that's probably going through something," Chyna said. "So I feel as though if one person speaks up, maybe it, hopefully, it will be a domino effect."

Speaking truth to power at Fox News

According to New York Magazine, Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson claimed she endured years of harassment by former Fox News Chairman and CEO, Roger Ailes, but she first complained to management after another on-air personality, Steve Doocy, "condescended to her on and off the air." In response, Ailes reportedly insulted her and "diminished" her role on the show.

Knowing she'd get no help from her superiors, Carlson busted Ailes herself by secretly recording their meetings. The result was Ailes caught saying things to Carlson like "I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago, and then you'd be good and better and I'd be good and better."

Armed with proof of Ailes' harassment, Carlson faced another challenge: her contract, which stipulated that "employment disputes be resolved in private arbitration." Carlson then decided to sue Ailes personally, two weeks after she was let go from Fox News when they let her contract expire. Carlson's suit, combined with accusations from six other women, forced Ailes out of the company, though he denied any wrongdoing.

Fox News' parent company, 21st Century Fox, eventually settled with Carlson for $20 million and issued her a public apology. Since then, Carlson has advocated against the silencing of harassment victims, specifically through the misappropriation of NDAs. In a guest column for Variety, Carlson wrote that "NDAs weren't created to hide dirty laundry," and that they "protect harassers and keep other victims from coming forward have no place in 2017 corporate culture."

Taking the power back

Multiple gold-medal Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney added her voice to #MeToo when she tweeted a long note in October 2017, detailing her abuse at the hands of Dr. Larry Nassar, the USA Gymnastics Women's Team and Olympic Team doctor. Her revelation proved to be particularly bold when it was revealed that Maroney had signed a NDA with USA Gymnastics the year before. According to USA Today, the NDA required Maroney "to stay quiet about the abuse she experienced as part of a $1.25 million settlement with USA Gymnastics, part of which she said would be used for psychological treatment."

Maroney later sued USA Gymnastics, claiming the NDA was a violation of a California law that prohibits child sex abuse victims from being bound by such agreements. USA Gymnastics alleged that it was Maroney who "initiated" the NDA, but also insisted that they had "not sought and will not seek any money from McKayla Maroney for her brave statements made in describing her victimization and abuse by Larry Nassar."

Nassar was eventually sentenced to up to 175 years in prison after over 150 victims came forward with allegations of sexual abuse. Maroney's victim statement letter was able to be read aloud in court. In it, Maroney described a culture of silence and negligence that allowed Nassar to commit his crimes. In closing, Maroney wrote, "Our silence has given the wrong people power for too long, and it's time to take the power back."

Did Tiger pay to make Rachel Uchitel go away?

Rachel Uchitel got famous at the same time she was silenced. She was the first mistress named in the Tiger Woods cheating scandal that grew to include an alleged 120 affairs, and ended his marriage to model Elin Nordegren.

Uchitel initially denied reports of her affair, but after text messages between her and the golf legend surfaced, she scheduled a "news conference" with famed celebrity attorney, Gloria Allred, according to TMZ. The news conference never happened, causing rampant speculation that Woods had paid Uchitel to keep quiet.

Four months later, TMZ reported that Woods paid Uchitel a whopping $10 million to not tell her story, an arrangement that Uchitel has never confirmed or denied. The closest she ever came to revealing anything about the supposed payment from Woods is a Daily Mail interview which reported that Uchitel had recently purchased "an apartment on Park Avenue in New York for more than £2 million." When asked about the alleged payoff, Uchitel deflected by saying, "Naughty you. You know I can't say anything."

Complicating matters even further, TMZ additionally reported that Uchitel was forced to pay back "the lion's share" of the so-called settlement after Woods' lawyer said she broke the agreement by speaking to the press and appearing on a reality TV show. As of this writing, Uchitel has still never confirmed or denied any payment, however, she has stated pretty clearly that she's no longer concerned with Woods in any way.