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A long-time London magazine columnist and friend of Harvey Weinstein’s on Friday published – and then seemingly took back within hours – a bombshell piece that quoted Weinstein admitting to using his position of power in exchange for sexual favours.

According to the column with the byline Taki in The Spectator, Taki Theodoracopulos wrote that Weinstein had invited him to his New York City office near Grand Central Terminal for a “world exclusive.” The topic turned out to be information that Weinstein claimed to have about two of the numerous women who have accused him of sexual assault, actresses Rose McGowan and Asia Argento.

Theodoracopulos’ column recounted Weinstein’s discussing women he had encountered in Hollywood: “You got lotsa girls, no girl looked at me until I made it big in Hollywood. Yes, I did offer them acting jobs in exchange for sex, but so did and still does everyone. But I never, ever forced myself on a single woman.”

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It was a startling admission conveyed through Theodoracopulos, the first time Weinstein has explicitly said he traded jobs for sex. The column was published as Weinstein faces criminal charges in New York City that he sexually assaulted three women. He has pleaded not guilty and has denied having any nonconsensual sex.

In a strange twist, within hours, Weinstein’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, issued a statement saying Weinstein had never said anything of the sort.

“I was present for the conversation; it was not an interview, but a social meeting between old friends,“ Brafman’s statement said. “Harvey and Taki did not discuss the case, nor would I allow him to. They talked about old Hollywood and the contrast to European culture, and I think Taki sees Harvey in that older light. Weinstein never said anything about trading movie roles for sexual favours. You have my word that Harvey did not say that.”

Brafman added an additional statement from Theodoracopulos: “After 41 years as a Spectator columnist without a single retraction, I believe that I may have misrepresented Harvey Weinstein’s conversation with me in New York last month. It was my mistake. We were discussing Hollywood, and I may have misunderstood certain things about the methods of that place. I had nothing to do with the headline of my article and I hope I have not damaged his case. It was, after all, a social visit.”

Left unclear was exactly what Theodoracopulos was claiming to have misrepresented or whether the quotation itself was inaccurate. The column was still on The Spectator’s website Friday evening without any correction or retraction note. The Spectator did not respond to a request for comment.

Theodoracopulos has been a defender of Weinstein and in this column wrote: “Although some will say I’m prejudiced, I have doubts about women who come out of the woodworks years later, or return for more after allegedly being raped by Weinstein.”

Just last month, in a separate piece for Taki’s Magazine, he wrote: “I have grave doubts about McGowan’s and Argento’s stories about being raped by Harvey. These two women seem like hustlers out for a buck. Never mind. In America today a woman can make an accusation, and the man instantly gets the death sentence.”

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There is also the matter of why Weinstein invited Theodoracopulos over in the first place, which Theodoracopulos suggested was an attempt to undercut two of his accusers. He wrote that Weinstein wanted to cast doubt on the open letter McGowan wrote last month in the wake of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide June 8.

Argento, who had been dating Bourdain, had been photographed with another man before Bourdain’s death. In the letter, McGowan said that Argento, a friend of hers, was being unfairly criticized for that on the internet and that she and Bourdain had had an open relationship.

Theodoracopulos wrote: “It was obviously not true, says Harvey, but dead men tell no tales, so the girls made it up. Harvey made a sketch of the twisted story for me and I couldn’t help feel sorry for him. He was, to use a terrible cliché, clutching for straws.”

Brafman declined to comment as to whether this part of the conversation was accurately characterized. Argento did not respond to a request for comment. McGowan, however, responded angrily in a phone interview.

“I’m sure Harvey Weinstein would know Asia Argento’s relationship better than her best friend,” McGowan said. “My response to that is that he’s a pathological liar and a superpredator.”

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