The board of the Weinstein Company announced that its co-chairman Harvey Weinstein began an indefinite leave on Friday, and the company said that an outside law firm would investigate allegations that he sexually harassed actresses and employees over the course of decades.
“We strongly endorse Harvey Weinstein’s already-announced decision to take an indefinite leave of absence from the company, commencing today,” according to a statement signed by four board members, Bob Weinstein, Tarak Ben Ammar, Lance Maerov and Richard Koenigsberg. “As Harvey has said, it is important for him to get professional help for the problems he has acknowledged. Next steps will depend on Harvey’s therapeutic progress, the outcome of the Board’s independent investigation, and Harvey’s own personal decisions.”
The move came in response to a New York Times investigation published Thursday that found complaints of sexual harassment by Mr. Weinstein stretching back decades and at least eight settlements paid to women. The investigation has rocked the entertainment company, with employees and business partners demanding swift action by the board.
Earlier Friday, a lawyer advising Mr. Weinstein said in a television appearance that he had acted inappropriately and agreed with an interviewer who had characterized Mr. Weinstein’s reported actions as illegal.
The acknowledgment by the lawyer, Lisa Bloom, came during an interview with George Stephanopoulos on the ABC News program “Good Morning America” in which he asked her about the report.
“This is a real pattern over 30 years; this is like textbook sexual harassment,” Mr. Stephanopoulos said, after describing the allegations.
“It’s gross, yeah,” Ms. Bloom replied.
“It’s illegal,” Mr. Stephanopoulos said.
“Yes. You know, I agree,” Ms. Bloom said. “See, you have to understand that, yes, I’m here as his adviser. I’m not defending him in any sexual harassment cases — there aren’t any sexual harassment cases. I’m working with a guy who has behaved badly over the years, who is genuinely remorseful, who says, you know, ‘I have caused a lot of pain.’”
Reached by The Times for additional comment on Friday, Ms. Bloom said: “The New York Times allegations if true would constitute sexual harassment. However, Mr. Weinstein denies many of them and was not given a fair opportunity to present evidence and witnesses on his side.”
Mr. Weinstein apologized for his behavior, acknowledging in a statement on Thursday that it had “caused a lot of pain” and vowing to “do better.” He later said in an interview with The Wrap that he intended to sue The Times for failing to give him enough time to respond to the allegations in the report.
Danielle Rhoades Ha, a Times spokeswoman, said that Mr. Weinstein had been given two days to respond.
“We included all relevant comments from Mr. Weinstein in our story and published his entire response,” she said. “Mr. Weinstein and his lawyer have confirmed the essential points of the story. They have not pointed to any errors or challenged any facts in our story.”
Ms. Rhoades Ha also called for Mr. Weinstein to release his employees from nondisclosure agreements he reportedly had them sign.
“As a supporter of women, he must support their right to speak openly about these issues of gender and power,” she said.
Weinstein Company board members spent nearly three hours Thursday night locked on the phone in heated discussion about the best way to respond. Mr. Weinstein co-founded the company with his brother, Bob Weinstein, and they own 42 percent of it.
Everyone agreed that an outside investigation was necessary, but there had been debate over the length and terms of Mr. Weinstein’s leave, and whether additional steps were necessary, according to those involved.
In the meantime, the board said in its statement, Bob Weinstein, the company’s co-chairman, and David Glasser, its president and chief operating officer, will lead the company.
In an email to employees on Friday, Mr. Glasser said that the company was “taking the allegations seriously” and that the investigation would determine the “best decision for how to address the situation.”
He said the company would start working with an “independent, third party firm” to which employees could report episodes of harassment they had experienced or witnessed. He said that the company “values women” and was “committed to a work environment in which all individuals are treated with respect and dignity.”
“I truly want to do what is right for this company, our many wonderful partners and, most importantly, you — our employees, so we are not taking this lightly,” Mr. Glasser wrote.
In response to the news, at least four Democratic senators said on Thursday that they would give away donations they had received from Mr. Weinstein, a supporter of several progressive causes. They were joined on Friday by Senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Kamala Harris of California.
Some celebrities also reacted to the news, expressing frustration with the behavior described in the report while voicing support for the women who chose to speak out publicly.
But several actors, producers and directors contacted on Friday declined to comment about Mr. Weinstein and the relatively minimal public conversation in Hollywood about his behavior. One who did speak, Lynda Obst, a producer of films including “Interstellar,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” and “The Fisher King,” said she expected more reactions to eventually surface.
“I think everyone is just taking it in, it’s so upsetting — talking internally,” Ms. Obst said. “I do expect a robust response from the community rejecting this kind of behavior toward women. Obviously it is intolerable.”
Mr. Weinstein had supported endowments honoring women at both Rutgers University and the University of Southern California.
Rutgers said Friday that it planned to keep his financial contribution to the Gloria Steinem Chair in Media, Culture, and Feminist Studies, adding in a statement that the university “can think of no better use of this donation than to continue this important work.”
U.S.C. did not say whether the news would affect an endowment for female filmmakers that Mr. Weinstein had pledged to organize.
In the interview on Friday, Ms. Bloom said that she took issue with characterizations of Mr. Weinstein’s actions as harassment.
“You’re using the term sexual harassment, which is a legal term,” she told Mr. Stephanopoulos. “So, I’m using the term workplace misconduct. I don’t know if there’s a real significant difference to most people, but sexual harassment is severe and pervasive.”
Ms. Bloom, who represented women who brought sexual harassment claims against the former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, said she saw advising Mr. Weinstein as an opportunity, adding that she felt uniquely positioned to work with him.
“What Harvey Weinstein has done is wrong; he has caused pain,” Ms. Bloom said, adding: “Here was an opportunity of a guy saying, ‘Lisa, what should I do? I have behaved badly.’ I’m like, good, I’ll tell you what to do. Be honest, be real.”
Earlier this year, the rapper Jay-Z and the Weinstein Company said they planned to work together on a series of television and film projects about the life of Trayvon Martin, based on a pair of books about the teenager, one of which was written by Ms. Bloom.
Gloria Allred, Ms. Bloom’s mother and a lawyer famous for defending women’s rights, said on Thursday in a statement to The Wrap that she disagreed with her daughter’s decision to work for Mr. Weinstein.
“Had I been asked by Mr. Weinstein to represent him, I would have declined, because I do not represent individuals accused of sex harassment,” she said. “I only represent those who allege that they are victims of sexual harassment.”
Dave Itzkoff and Melena Ryzik contributed reporting.