Gayle King warned of a backlash to #MeToo on Monday at the Milken Institute 2018 Global Conference at the Beverly Hilton.
“I worry sometimes that women make an accusation and men instantly get the death penalty,” King said during a panel discussion in Beverly Hills on the topic of corporate culture in the media industry. “I think we have to be very careful; that there has to be a due process for all involved — so I do worry of a backlash to the #MeToo movement.”
King was joined by United Talent Agency CEO Jeremy Zimmer, filmmaker Tyler Perry and Tim Armstrong, the CEO of Oath, which is Verizon’s digital content business that houses AOL, Yahoo and other brands.
King said she often hears men complain that they are confused about how they can and cannot behave in the era of #MeToo, the movement that turns a spotlight on men who abuse women in the workplace.
“Listen, if it’s not something you can say in front of your wife, or girlfriend, or sister, or mother, it’s probably not a good idea,” King said.
The CBS This Morning host then got more specific. “It’s probably not a good idea to have a meeting, take out your penis, and think that that’s a good opening line,” she said to laughter. “Is it wrong to give a woman a compliment? No, it’s not. I think everyone knows the intention.”
Armstrong said he demands women and minorities be involved in every gathering he attends for work, and he has been known to simply walk out if it’s not the case. “I now cancel meetings when there’s no diversity in the room,” he said.
Apart from #MeToo and diversity, Perry said culture at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta begins each day with a prayer, and he acknowledged many other businesses in Hollywood wouldn’t allow such a thing. He noted the prayers are not mandatory and that he’s always impressed with the large number of employees who show up for them.
King asked Zimmer what he considers a “deal breaker” when meeting a potential new-hire. “It’s somebody who shows up at my office for an interview just looking like a bum,” he answered. “I know that’s really old-fashioned, and I’m sure I missed out on the next Mark Zuckerberg because of that.”
When King asked Perry how long he’d continue making movies about Madea — the tough, elderly woman he plays in some of his most popular films — the actor-director responded, “As long as people want to see her, she’ll be around. But the minute they stop coming, I’m killing that b****!”