KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Before this next interview, we want to give you a warning. This conversation will cover some graphic allegations of sexual misconduct.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Misconduct allegedly by Louis C.K. The comedian has built his career lambasting men and male hypocrisy.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
LOUIS C K: How do women still go out with guys when you consider the fact that there is no greater threat to women than men? We're the No. 1 threat to women.
SIEGEL: Well, now five women have come forward publicly in a story published today by The New York Times describing incidents that took place in the late-1990s and early 2000s. Cara Buckley of The New York Times joins us now. Welcome to the program.
CARA BUCKLEY: Thank you.
SIEGEL: The women you spoke to were all connected in some way to the comedy business, and they all describe similar experiences with Louis C.K. What was the common thread in what you heard?
BUCKLEY: The common thread was the women were caught off-guard by this request. It either - they were either - they said Louis C.K. either requested to masturbate in front of them or in one case just started to. And because of his position even then, you know, in the late-'90s and early aughts in the comedy world, they revered him. And they felt like they really couldn't speak out about it and also that it was in a bit of a gray area. They weren't sure, well, is this a crime - some of them - or, you know, can we even speak out about this? So...
SIEGEL: And in these situations, Louis C.K., you report, is described as sometimes asking permission before he proceeded. The women still felt it was abusive. What do they say about that?
BUCKLEY: Well, one woman who did not want her name on the record said, you know, she was really young. She wanted to - she was working at "The Chris Rock Show." She didn't really know how to say no to this. And you know, looking back years later, she realized he was a powerful figure, and he took advantage of her.
Another woman immediately knew that it was a problem and, you know, immediately spoke out to producers of a show she was working on - Courteney Cox and David Arquette, who both, you know, confirmed that this incident occurred. They felt like he - you know, this was at the workplace. You know, you can imagine you're walking to work. She was on set. It was a big deal. You know, it's - she was producing and starring in a comedy pilot. And this revered comic asks if he can do this. She denied - she said no. But it really haunted her. It haunted her years later. He called to apologize.
SIEGEL: Some of these women, you report, also describe what they felt was intimidation by Louis C.K.'s manager, Dave Becky. Is he a very powerful figure?
BUCKLEY: Yeah. He's connected to - I mean, his company 3 Arts is behind some of the biggest productions in comedy. He represents Amy Poehler, Aziz Ansari, many big names - Kevin Hart - in the comedy world. So for the women who felt like they had angered him, they felt like in Hollywood they certainly couldn't do any work with him, which really cut out a large amount of the productions there.
SIEGEL: Quite a few times in the past few weeks in stories about - well, stories like this one, we hear the term open secret. Does that apply in this case?
BUCKLEY: It certainly does. These rumors had been swirling for years around Louis C.K., especially after in the early aughts he masturbated in front of two women in a hotel room in Aspen. And - but they did not want to speak out until now. And they told everyone at the time, but then they felt like they had to shut up about it. But it's now that they're coming forward and - you know, with their names, saying that this happened and they were intimidated afterwards.
SIEGEL: Well, thanks for talking with us about it. Cara Buckley of The New York Times.
BUCKLEY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.