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In an interview with the New York Times on September 11, Louis C.K. declined to discuss what the paper of record genteelly described as “unsubstantiated internet rumors of sexual misconduct with female comics.”
“I’m not going to answer to that stuff, because they’re rumors,” C.K. told reporter Cara Buckley. “If you actually participate in a rumor, you make it bigger and you make it real.” He added, in response to a follow-up question, that the un-outlined allegations were not true: “They’re rumors, that’s all that is.”
The Times tiptoes up to the substance of the allegations in their summary of C.K.’s new movie, writing that among its “provocations” is “a goof-off comedian (Charlie Day) miming onanism, twice, in front of other people.” More bluntly, the rumors are that C.K. masturbated in front of non-consenting women, most of them fellow comedians. In at least one instance, in front of two women at the Aspen Comedia Festival around 2008, he’s alleged to have blocked the door with his body, preventing them from leaving, until he ejaculated. Those rumors were first reported in two Gawker stories, a blind item in 2012 and a followup piece in 2015.
Rather than advancing from there, the matter has kept going around and around. The women rumored to have been victimized by Louis C.K. at the Aspen Comedy Festival have declined to talk publicly about their experiences. The comedian Jen Kirkman talked about a “known perv” comedian on her podcast, whom she also described in terms that many listeners took to be a reference to C.K.: “He is probably at Cosby level at this point. He is lauded as a genius. He is basically a French filmmaker at this point. You know, new material every year.” After Jezebel wrote about the podcast, Kirkman then deleted it. She recently said that she was not referring to Louis C.K., that she doesn’t know why anybody would think that, and that she has no knowledge of him taking his penis out in front of anyone.
The hints have continued, second- and third-hand: Roseanne Barr said in 2016 that she has heard “so many stories” about C.K.’s alleged misbehavior. The New York Times raised the issue with C.K. this year because Tig Notaro, with whom C.K. had a recent falling-out, told the Daily Beast that he “needs to handle” the rumors. (The fact that C.K.’s main character in his new film mirrors the allegations so closely is either a provocation or a wry acknowledgment, depending on how you look at things.)
It’s been five years, then, since these stories first surfaced, and a clear pattern is emerging: They get referenced obliquely in an interview. C.K. declines to discuss them. They make the rounds on Twitter for a few days, and then the issue is submerged again.
This is a state of affairs that’s working well for Louis C.K. and for anyone who wants to continue to work with him or enjoy his comedy without worrying too much about whether he masturbates in front of people who don’t want him to. But it’s also not satisfactory. We don’t know whether these rumors are true. If they are, we don’t know whether this is behavior that is ongoing or that’s in the past.
It’s time to have the matter more clearly and directly discussed, either to put the stories to rest for good or to substantiate them in a way that will force C.K. to discuss, not to dismiss them. Rumors can become checkable claims when there are places, dates, and, if possible, names attached to them.
So we’re putting out a call for tips: What do you know, specifically, about Louis C.K.’s alleged sexual misbehavior? Reach out to us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or anonymously and securely using Gizmodo Media’s Secure Drop system.
Talk to us. It’s time.