The Girls creator had been criticised for saying that she knew her friend and colleague Murray Miller was innocent.
Lena Dunham has apologised for defending a male friend and colleague who was accused of rape, saying in a statement: “Every woman who comes forward deserves to be heard, fully and completely”.
Miller has “categorically and vehemently” denied Perrineau’s claim, and Dunham’s first statement on the allegations – issued jointly with Girls executive producer and Lenny Letter co-founder Jenni Konner – supported his denial.
Referring to the slew of sexual misconduct claims in the post-Weinstein era, Dunham and Konner said: “During the windfall of deeply necessary accusations over the last few months in Hollywood, we have been thrilled to see so many women’s voices heard… It’s a hugely important time of change and, like every feminist in Hollywood and beyond, we celebrate.”
However, they went on to say that they believed Miller had been falsely accused, in what they described as an example of “the culture, in its enthusiasm and zeal, taking down the wrong targets”.
“Our insider knowledge of Murray’s situation makes us confident that sadly this accusation is one of the 3% of [sexual] assault cases that are misreported every year,” read Dunham and Konner’s original statement.
They added: “We stand by Murray and this is all we’ll be saying about this issue.”
Dunham received significant criticism for the statement, which many said appeared to contradict her public image as a feminist and supporter of women. In August this year, for example, she posted a tweet asserting that women “don’t lie about” rape.
Dunham has since deleted her initial statement on the allegations against Miller from her social media accounts, and said that she regrets her comments about the case.
In a lengthy apology posted on Twitter on 19 November, Dunham said that she never thought she would “issue a statement publically supporting someone accused of sexual assault”.
“As feminists, we live and die by our politics, and believing women is the first choice we make every day when we wake up… but I naively believed it was important to share my perspective on my friend’s situation as it has transpired behind the scenes over the last few months,” she wrote.
Dunham said that she now understands “that it was absolutely the wrong time to come forward with such a statement and I am so sorry”.
She added that she and Konner should not have pointed to their personal friendship with Miller as evidence of his innocence.
“Every woman who comes forward deserves to be heard, fully and completely, and our relationship to the accused should not be part of the calculation anyone makes when examining her case,” she said.
“Under patriarchy, ‘I believe you’ is essential. Until we are all believed, none of us will be believed. We apologise to any women who have been disappointed.”
Dunham’s original response – publically choosing to believe Miller, a white man, over Perrineau, a woman of colour – has been cited by many commentators as evidence of her brand of “white feminism”. Writing for The Independent, Biba Kang said that Dunham had “failed women of colour by discrediting Aurora Perrineau’s rape allegations”.
Author Zinzi Clemmons, a former contributor to Lenny Letter, has also said that she will no longer contribute to Dunham and Konner’s feminist newsletter.
In a post shared on social media, Clemmons called on “women of colour – black women in particular – to divest from Lena Dunham”.
“She cannot have our words if she cannot respect us,” she wrote.
Clemmons added that she had known Dunham and her friends since she was at university, when they were “well-known” for their “‘hipster racism’”.
Reading Perrineau’s account of her experience with Miller had left her “overcome with emotion”, she said, because one of her “best friends” was sexually assaulted by another person in Dunham’s circle when they were students.
Los Angeles police are currently investigating Perrineau’s claim against Miller, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Miller’s legal team provided a statement to the publication denying all of the allegations against the Girls writer.
“Mr Miller categorically and vehemently denies Ms Perrineau’s outrageous claims,” said lawyer Don Walerstein in the statement. “After being contacted several weeks ago by lawyers who – on Ms. Perrineau’s behalf – sought substantial monetary damages from him, Mr Miller’s legal team gathered overwhelming evidence directly contradicting these false and offensive claims.”
Perrineau’s mother, Brittany Perrineau, denied that her daughter was seeking to extort money from Miller.
“At no time have we ever asked Murray Miller for $1,” she said.
Images: Rex Features