John Oliver and Dustin Hoffman’s excruciatingly awkward talk made the audience gasp

The Washington Post video screenshot

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It was an anniversary screening of the film “Wag the Dog,” but panelist Dustin Hoffman got more than he bargained for Monday night when moderator John Oliver began a line of questioning about recent sexual misconduct allegations against the actor.

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The uncomfortable topic was broached in an unrelated setting, and Hoffman said he did not expect to be asked about the incidents, which stem from at least three women alleging improper behavior by the now-80-year-old actor.

The argument happened at a Tribeca Institute panel in New York City about “Wag the Dog,” when the movie’s stars, Hoffman and Robert De Niro, took the stage, along with producer Jane Rosenthal and director Barry Levinson.

Things got uncomfortable about halfway through the hour-long talk, when Oliver brought up allegations against Hoffman, noting that he found the actor’s “apology” lacking.

“This is something we’re going to have to talk about because … it’s hanging in the air,” Oliver said to Hoffman. Oliver was referencing an accusation made last month by Anna Graham Hunter, who, at age 17, worked as an intern on the set of the 1985 TV movie “Death Of A Salesman” with Hoffman; she said he groped her and made inappropriate comments to her. Hoffman said he didn’t recall meeting Graham Hunter and said he hadn’t groped anyone.

“It’s hanging in the air? From a few things you’ve read, you’ve made an incredible assumption about me,” Hoffman countered, acidly. “You’ve made the case better than anyone else can. I’m guilty.”

“You weren’t there,” Hoffman said to Oliver about the “Salesman” set.

“I’m glad [I wasn’t],” the host replied.

Deadline reported that the crowd gasped at this exchange.

While Oliver tried to steer the conversation away from the controversy, Hoffman would not leave it alone.

People in the audience began to speak up. One woman yelled to Oliver: “Move on, let it go.”

Another audience member told Oliver: “Thank you for believing in women,” to cheers in the crowd.

Near the end of the exchange, Oliver said he couldn’t avoid asking Hoffman about the allegations. “I can’t leave certain things unaddressed,” the host said. “The easy way is not to bring anything up. Unfortunately that leaves me at home later at night hating myself. ‘Why the … didn’t I say something? No one stands up to powerful men.’”

“Am I the powerful man?” Hoffman asked. “Keep a kind of open mind if you can, John.”

“I’m trying,” Oliver said.

“Well I’m trying harder than you are,” Hoffman replied.

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