In an interview on UK talk show The Russell Howard Hour, John Oliver expressed regret over the outcome of his “failed” confrontation with Dustin Hoffman during a Wag the Dog Q&A session in New York this month.
“It didn’t really go anywhere constructive, so the whole thing made me feel sad,” Oliver said. When Howard, whose show airs on Sky One, said it was better for Oliver to have brought up allegations of sexual harassment against Hoffman than avoiding the subject, Oliver replied: “That’s true. I just wanted it to become something more constructive.” Howard said, “But you tried.” Smiling, Oliver shot back, “I did. I tried and failed.”
The Q&A, which preceded a 20th anniversary screening of Wag the Dog, also featured director Barry Levinson, producer Jane Rosenthal and co-star Robert De Niro but soon devolved into a one-on-one showdown between Oliver and Hoffman. Held at the august 92nd Street Y, the benefit event for the Tribeca Film Institute became a remarkable public moment in the entertainment industry’s season of reckoning with sexual misconduct.
As the atmosphere in the theater grew increasingly charged, some audience members shouted to Oliver to “move on,” while others thanked him for “believing women.” Hoffman came back aggressively at Oliver, complaining that “so-called, alleged comments that are made are truth now. And if you try to defend it, you’re guilty.”
In a conversation that touched on other topics like life in the U.S., favorite moments from Last Week Tonight and the show’s approach to news-driven comedy, fellow Brit comic Howard congratulated Oliver for “taking down” Hoffman. Oliver protested, “I did not take him down.”
Oliver said he warned organizers of the event on two separate occasions that he planned to bring up the allegations, and they signed off on him doing so rather than replacing him as moderator. “A collision course was set at that point,” he said. “It became about my questions rather than his answers. My questions were not particularly remarkable. His answers were kind of not great.”
Here is the full interview: