The New York Times published a story about Asia Argento and a teenager. Continued association with Argento after this could have had serious, lasting repercussions for Anthony Bourdain’s reputation as a man of integrity were he alive today to give a shit.
Argento is paying a financial settlement to a young man whom, as a minor, she allegedly assaulted. This would seem to negate her role as a #MeToo movement leader. If she were a man, they’d immediately vilify her and trample any shred of career she may have left. Just ask Al Franken.
It’s a complicated story, so I’ll just lay it out chronologically…
1997 — Producer Harvey Weinstein performs unwanted oral sex on Argento in a hotel room in Cannes when she’s 21. She and Weinstein date on and off for years later, but Argento keeps memory of his clumsy first move in her back pocket.
2004 — Argento meets 7-year-old actor Jimmy Bennett, who’s hired to play a son to her prostitute mother character in a movie, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, which Argento also helps write and directs. The film includes a scene where Bennett’s character is raped. (Two other child actors shared the role, so I don’t know if Bennett was actually in the rape scene.)
In the years that follow, Argento and Bennett maintain a cordial mother-son relationship on social media.
May 9, 2013 — Bennett, now 17, visits Argento, 37, in her hotel room in California. He still lives with his parents and has to be driven everywhere. Argento asks for them to be alone, serves liquor, then removes Bennett’s pants, performs oral sex on him and initiates intercourse. Afterward, they take selfies in bed together for Instagram. The age of consent in California is 18, so this could make Argento’s actions statutory rape whether Bennett was willing or not.
April 2016 — Anthony Bourdain and Argento meet when she appears in a Rome episode of Parts Unknown.
September 2016 — Anthony Bourdain moves into his own apartment shortly before he and Ottavia Busia-Bourdain announce they’re splitting up.
February 2017 — Bourdain and Argento let it be known they’re a couple.
October 2017 — Ronan Farrow writes a story for the New Yorker that includes Argento’s 1997 Weinstein assault. This propels her into leadership of the #MeToo movement, along with fellow Weinstein accuser Rose McGowan. The women become best friends.
Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Jimmy Bennett sees this and starts having bad flashbacks to Argento’s hotel room in 2013.
November 2017 — Bourdain’s attorney, Richard Hofstetter, receives a notice of intent to sue from Bennett, addressed to Argento. It asks for $3.5 million in compensation for assault and battery, lost wages and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Argento hires her own attorney, Carrie Goldberg, who specializes in defending victims of online attacks.
December 2017 — Bourdain writes about #MeToo: “I stand unhesitatingly and unwaveringly with the women. Not out of virtue, or integrity, or high moral outrage — as much as I’d like to say so — but because late in life, I met one extraordinary woman with a particularly awful story to tell, who introduced me to other extraordinary women with equally awful stories.” (quoted from today’s story on CNN.com)
April 2018 — The suit is settled for $380,000. Bennett receives an initial lump sum of $200,000, with the remainder to be paid over 18 months.
June 5, 2018 — Photos of Argento in Rome with 28-year-old journalist Hugo Clement are published online while Bourdain is in France shooting Parts Unknown.
June 8, 2018 — Bourdain dies by suicide.
August 19, 2018 — After receiving via encrypted email from an unknown source documents and photos about the Bennett-Argento lawsuit, The New York Times publishes the story.
Surprise, surprise, CNN also did a story, which consists almost entirely of quotes from The New York Times piece. Not surprisingly, the Bourgento angle is buried near the end. CNN says they have tried to reach Argento, Bennett and various involved parties but are getting crickets like everyone else.
Now, the questions…
Did Bourdain know he was dating a female sexual predator when he was singing her praises for the #MeToo movement?
Would Bourdain excuse a rape? Apparently so. He didn’t walk away after the intent to sue hit last November, but is reported to have helped Argento “navigate” it.
How did Argento spin it to Tony make herself the victim, or at least blameless?
Where did Argento get $200,000?
Who supplied the information to The New York Times?
Rose McGowan, in a stunning display of hypocrisy, tweeted that her heart is broken. And…
Like what? Argento basically admitted culpability with the settlement. Are they going to try to make Jimmy Bennett the bad guy now?
Under the settlement, Bennett can’t sue Argento, and there’s no gag order, so they’re both free to talk about it. However, nobody on any side of this matter would talk to the NYT about it beyond verifying the authenticity of the documents and photos.
Argento is mum right now, but her pattern is to shoot her mouth off, so we’ll see if she doesn’t try to somehow twist this. Her brand is becoming more toxic by the minute.
Wherever Harvey Weinstein is today, he must be laughing his ass off and thanking karma for being such a bitch.