Bob Lefsetz, a former entertainment lawyer, has been writing the Lefsetz Letter for over a decade now. Typically a pretty inside-baseball view of the music industry with analysis, reviews, and awards show chatter, the Lefsetz Letter has gotten considerably more exposure in recent months because of how many women and men are submitting anonymous allegations of harassment to it.
In January, Lefsetz circulated a link to an open letter directed at Republic Records executive Charlie Walk written by Tristan Coopersmith, a former coworker who alleged sexual misconduct. Walk was placed on leave by Republic and Lefsetz is now facing legal threats for passing along the link to his readers. Readers continued to send Lefsetz emails alleging other misconduct from Walk as well as other anecdotes, anonymous or not, of sexual harassment in the industry, which Lefsetz then circulated through the newsletter.
In response, The Daily Beast published a glowing piece on Lefsetz’s work exposing sexual misconduct in the industry. It frames Lefsetz’s letter as the “first place” for women in the music industry to share their stories (despite the fact that several other outlets have also been covering the topic). “Bob is like an accidental hero,” guitarist Paula Franceschi tells the outlet. “He’s the kind of example we need out there, men stepping up for women.” But there’s no mention in the piece of the fact that, for years, Lefsetz has frequently written sexist statements about women’s bodies in ways that certainly contradict the depiction of him as “an accidental hero.”
Lefsetz is the same writer who saw Beyoncé perform at the 2013 Super Bowl and remarked that he wasn’t sure what to do afterwards, “join a gym or masturbate.” He’s the same critic who assured readers that if they wanted to “get laid” they should go to a One Direction show. “An endless sea of barely pubescent girls, screaming their heads off,” he wrote. He dedicated an entire letter to Emily Ratajkowski’s cameo in the “Blurred Lines” video because “it was the only thing that had me watching, who was the girl with the perfect breasts?”
In response to Gwen Stefani’s solo turn, the “photos alone make you want to puke.” About Adele: “I seriously doubt she can make it big here in America. Because she’s FAT!” he wrote in 2008, elaborating that in America it’s all about appearances. By 2011, he seemed to come around to her more after attending her performance at the Greek Theatre. “First of all she’s young. That’s what struck me,” he wrote. “She was a twentysomething with an unlined face. And she’s no longer fat.” And of course we can’t forget that Taylor Swift’s “Mean” is rumored to be about Lefsetz, who once wrote that she can’t sing.
But Lefsetz is more than just a man who frequently seems to write about women with bulging, horny cartoon eyes. He has also written some pretty disturbing opinions on the topic of sexual assault and harassment, which are more confusing given how quick he is to publish and circulate the stories he does now. Consider his 2016 post on the Kesha and Dr. Luke lawsuit. He begins his letter:
I’m glad Dr. Luke finally spoke up, because every other male in America is afraid to.
That’s the country we now live in. One wherein men are guilty until proven innocent and they’re all rapists under their skin, despite even the “New York Times” saying that most rapes are violent crimes perpetrated by the same individuals.
And while Lefsetz does write that Kesha may be telling the truth, he includes that it’s “sad” that her case is being tried outside of court. “Once again, a case is being tried in the press, on Twitter,” he writes. “And with a media that refuses to render an opinion, unless it’s in support of an agenda, and nobody supports rape as an agenda, the words of celebrities and those who yell loudest trump truth.”
Then there’s his fairly recent post from October 2017, when the Weinstein allegations dropped. He writes that Weinstein wants to be a rock star with a deep need for power and women that rehab can’t fix. But he also seems to suggest that women are perhaps part of the problem too, writing:
And the conundrum is women are attracted to power. They say they want a soft, sensitive guy, but this is untrue, they prefer someone rough around the edges, someone different from them, evidencing testosterone. And you can argue with me all you want, but the relationship expert Esther Perel agrees with me, it’s hard to say the politically incorrect thing.
What is Lefsetz trying to say about the women who desire men who are “rough around the edges”? That they’re asking for it? Compare these statements to a February 2018 letter where Lefsetz endorses a New York Times op-ed on how #MeToo accomplishes what the law can’t and that just because women are sexualized doesn’t mean they are “giving license to be taken advantage of.”
Those who experience sexual harassment and misconduct should choose how they wish to share their stories, anonymously or not, in publications and forums they feel comfortable with. And because of how frustratingly opaque the music industry has been in terms of reacting to and trying to fix problems of sexual misconduct in music professions, it’s good that these stories are coming to light anywhere.
But I would be quicker to applaud Lefsetz’s apparent turn of opinion in regards to women’s sexuality and the believability of their stories if it didn’t fall neatly in line with the type of writing that is viewed as prestigious right now. Since the introduction of #MeToo publications have scrambled to cover sexual assault and harassment in their industries, sometimes without proper journalistic protocol. Men who’ve never even written about sexism in their industries pat themselves on the back for their difficult work. Outlets brag about how viral their stories about rape go and stories of assault allegations are touted sensationally as “EXCLUSIVES” for outlets.
Lefsetz wrote in a recent letter, “nobody is listening to these women.” But I’m not sure if, for most of his career, he’s been listening, either.