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Louis CK accused of sexual misconduct by five women, HBO cuts ties

Yup, it finally happened

For years, rumors of sexual harassment have swirled around comedian Louis CK. Now, five women have come forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct, as reported at The New York Times. Their accounts are remarkably similar, involving incidents where the Louie star either asked if he could masturbate in front of them, or simply did so without their consent.

Although his agent said he would decline to comment, Louis CK previously brushed off rumors of sexual misconduct, telling Vulture in 2016, "I don't care about that. That's nothing to me. That's not real." According to the five women who have come forward at the Times, however, it was very real — and they've finally found a way to make him care about it.

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The accusations follow a massive wave of sexual misconduct allegations published at the Times and elsewhere, aimed at prominent men like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Roy Price, Ben Affleck, and even former president George H. W. Bush. Shortly before the publication of the article, Louis CK pulled out of an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and the New York City premiere for his new film I Love You, Daddy was canceled hours before it was scheduled to begin. The cancellation was attributed to "unexpected circumstances," but those observing the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein revelations have been vocally expecting this particular revelation for the past week.

Louis CK wrote and directed the controversial I Love You, Daddy, and he stars as a television writer and producer whose teenage daughter (Chloë Moretz) is seduced by a predatory 68-year-old filmmaker (John Malkovich). The film explores the messy, controversial issues around sexual consent, an astonishingly hubristic subject choice for a filmmaker under a cloud of suspicion around sexual misconduct.

One scene in the movie features a character pantomiming masturbation for an extended period of time, though Louis CK told the Times in September that it was not intended as an allusion to the rumors. "It's funny. I didn't think of that." The comedian's routine often included masturbation jokes, and in 2007, he told a radio show a story about exposing his genitals to an old man in public when he was younger, adding, "I don't know why."

According to several of the women who came forward, the star was very aware of what he was doing when he masturbated in front of them or propositioned them — not only that it was non-consensual, but that it was wrong.

Actor and comedian Rebecca Corry told The New York Times that while she was working on a pilot in 2005, Louis CK came in as a guest star, and asked to enter her dressing room, where he planned to masturbate in front of her. When rebuffed, Corry said, "his face got red and he told me he had issues." In 2015, she says he offered another apology, claiming that he "used to misread people back then."

Writer and performer Abby Schachner said that when she called CK to invite him to one of her shows in 2003, he started to tell her his sexual fantasies, and she could hear him masturbating on the other end. Later, he sent her a Facebook message that said, "I remember thinking what a repulsive person I was being by responding the way that I did." Schachner said the experience discouraged her from pursuing a career in comedy.

Alongside the accounts of three other women, these accusations paint a picture of a powerful man who was fully aware that he was a compulsive sexual harasser, routinely apologized for it, and yet failed to curb his behavior. It's a stark reminder that neither talent nor self-awareness are impediments to being a sexual abuser. If anything, those traits only make harassers more adept at avoiding consequences — or at least, one hopes, they used to.

On Thursday evening, HBO responded by dropping Louis CK from their upcoming Night of Too Many Stars benefit concert and pulling his past projects from its On Demand services. FX, home to his Emmy Award-winning show Louie, issued a statement saying that the cable channel is "very troubled" by the allegations, and will "take all necessary actions to protect our employees and thoroughly investigate any allegations of misconduct within our workplace... The matter is currently under review."