How can a Hollywood bigwig properly apologize for perpetuating a culture of sexual harassment, or for his own past bad behavior? Most statements from accused directors and execs fall short—but on Thursday, Rick and Morty creator Dan Harmon provided a notable example when he took himself to task for actions of which he’s now ashamed. Harmon’s accuser, who called him out last week on Twitter, responded positively to Harmon’s mea culpa, calling it “a master class in How to Apologize.”
Last week, writer Megan Ganz responded to a tweet of Harmon’s—which dubbed 2017 “the Year of the Asshole. Myself included”—by quoting the message and commenting,, “Care to be more specific? Redemption follows allocution.” From there, the two tweeted publicly about an ongoing pattern of harassment that occurred when Ganz worked for Harmon on the NBC sitcom Community; she was a writer, while Harmon served as show-runner. Harmon then said that he was “filled with regret and a lot of foggy memories about abusing my position, treating you like garbage.” Ganz replied by saying she wished her memories of that time were foggier: “It took me years to believe in my talents again,” she continued, “to trust a boss when he complimented me and not cringe when he asked for my number. I was afraid to be enthusiastic, knowing it might be turned against me later.”
Then, on Thursday, Harmon released an episode of his podcast in which he issued a much more in-depth, 10-minute apology to Ganz, detailing a years-long period during which he was attracted to her and—despite her repeated pleas for him to stop engaging in what he called “flirty” and “creepy” behavior—continued to make inappropriate comments to her at work. At one point, Harmon even told Ganz he loved her. When Ganz rejected him, Harmon recalls retaliating, motivated by the desire to “teach her a lesson.”
“I was attracted to a writer that I had power over because I was a show-runner,” Harmon said in his podcast. “And I knew enough to know that these feelings were bad news—that was easy enough to know. I knew that they ran they risk of undercutting people’s faith in my judgement, her faith in her talents, the other writers’ respect for me, the entire production, the audience.”
Harmon—who was also in a relationship at the time—explained that for a while, he limited his behavior to “everything other than overt enough to constitute betraying your live-in girlfriend to whom you’re going home every night.” That is, until he broke up with his girlfriend and lied about the reason; at that point, Harmon said he “went right, full-steam into creeping on my employee.” After two seasons of working together, Harmon said he told Ganz he loved her. “And she said the same thing she’d been saying the entire time, in one language or another: ‘Please, don’t you understand that focusing on me like this, liking me like this, preferring me like this, I can’t say no to it and when you do it, it makes me unable to know whether I’m good at my job.’”
At that point, Harmon retaliated. “I wanted to show her that if she didn't like being liked in that way then, oh boy, she should get over herself. After all, if you’re just going to be a writer, then this is how ‘just writers’ get treated,” Harmon said. “And that was probably the darkest of it all.”
“I was the one writing her paychecks and in control of whether she stayed or went, and whether she felt good about herself or not, and said horrible things,” he continued. “Just treated her cruelly, pointedly. Things that I would never, ever, ever have done if she had been male and if I had never had those feelings for her, and I lied to myself the entire time about it and I lost my job, I ruined my show, I betrayed the audience, I destroyed everything, and I damaged her internal compass, and I moved on.”
Harmon said that he “got away” with what he did by not thinking about his actions; if Ganz hadn’t said something on Twitter, Harmon admitted, “I would’ve continued to not have to think about it, although I did walk around with my stomach in knots about it, but I wouldn’t have had to talk about it.” His final thought? “No matter who you are at work, no matter where you’re working, no matter what field you’re in, no matter what position you have over or under or side by side with somebody, just think about it. You gotta, because if you don’t think about it, you’re gonna get away with not thinking about it, and you can cause a lot of damage that is technically legal and hurts everybody, and I think that we’re living in a good time right now because we’re not gonna get away with it anymore, and if we can make it a normal part of our culture that we think about it, and possibly talk about it, then maybe we can get to a better place where that stuff doesn’t happen.”
Ganz tweeted out Harmon’s apology, writing, “It’s only seven minutes long, but it is a master class in How to Apologize. He’s not rationalizing or justifying or making excuses. He doesn’t just vaguely acknowledge some general wrongdoing in the past. He gives a full account.”
“This was never about vengeance,” Ganz added. “It’s about vindication. That's why it didn’t feel right to just accept his apology in private (although I did that, too). Because if any part of this process should be done in the light, it’s the forgiveness part. And so, @danharmon, I forgive you.”
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Laura BradleyLaura Bradley is a Hollywood writer for VanityFair.com. She was formerly an editorial assistant at Slate and lives in Brooklyn.