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Academy of Motion Pictures chief denies sexual harassment allegations

The president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization behind the Oscars, has denied a sexual harassment allegation.

In a memo sent to academy staff, President John Bailey said allegations in Hollywood trade publications that he tried to touch a woman inappropriately a decade ago on a movie set were untrue, Variety reported on Saturday.

A representative for Bailey did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Reuters could not independently confirm any of the allegations.

Bailey, a cinematographer whose credits range from Groundhog Day to How to Be a Latin Lover, said in the memo that media reports describing complaints to the academy were false and served only to tarnish his 50-year career, Variety reported. 

Last week, Variety reported that Bailey was under investigation for sexual harassment.

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Variety broke the story, citing sources who said Bailey came under investigation last Wednesday, when three harassment claims were filed with the movie industry’s governing body.

John Bailey (above), the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization behind the Oscars, has denied a sexual harassment allegation

Bailey, a cinematographer, has been married to film editor Carol Littleton since 1972.

The 75-year-old was elected to the four-year position in August, and has seen the Academy through perhaps its darkest period – with the downfall of Harvey Weinstein and the subsequent #MeToo movement exposing the widespread mistreatment of women in the industry. 

The Academy has been largely lauded for its response to the #MeToo movement though, with the group quickly voting to expel Weinstein and Bailey overseeing the establishment of a new code of conduct for the industry. 

For the first time, the Academy has a clear-cut process for investigating sexual harassment claims when they arise, and a prerogative to discipline or expel members they find guilty of abuses. 

Bailey has worked in Hollywood for more than forty years, shooting such films as The Big Chill, Groundhog Day and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.

Bailey’s election was historic in that he was the first ‘below the line’ industry worker to be chosen as Academy president since the 1980s.

He succeeded Cheryl Boone Isaacs in the position, the Academy’s first black president.

When Bailey was elected, there was some controversy that a white male was selected for the position given the Academy’s recent criticisms over diversity.

When confronted with those complaints, Bailey told Variety last year: ‘What you just said is bulls**t. I was born a white man, and I can’t help it that I’m 75 years old. Is this some sort of limiting factor?’

He is a noted film history buff, and has been invested in the creation of the Academy’s new museum currently under construction.

If Bailey decides to step down, he would be replaced by Academy Vice President Lois Burwell, a make-up artist, until the next election in July.