In a he-said-she-said dispute, no one, and that includes lawyers, doctors, and crisis managers, ever says, “Believe the men.” So we were pretty skeptical when James Kirchick said he wanted to interview the actor Armie Hammer about his downfall—there were just too many young women, too many disturbing accusations, and way too many references to cannibalism.
But what changed our minds and prompted us to devote so many words to this #MeToo saga set in Hollywood was this: Kirchick wanted to know why so few of the accusations against Hammer were examined seriously by the media or law enforcement.
It wasn’t hard to believe that Hammer, a handsome, entitled movie star and an heir to the Armand Hammer petroleum fortune, had the ability to prey on women. And his taste for B.D.S.M. and drug-fueled debauchery led many to assume the worst. Indeed, the very outrageousness of the accusations against him may be one reason why so many didn’t look too deeply into the charges themselves.
Kirchick, a Writer at Large for air mail and the author of Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington, covers politics, not show business. He was determined both to check out Hammer’s various claims and to make sense of the stories that some of his accusers blazoned on social media, in the press, and in a salacious three-part docuseries, House of Hammer, but that never ended up in criminal court or even in evidence for a civil case.
Kirchick obtained text-message exchanges, truly cringe-inducing ones, that fill in online conversations that until now had been edited to showcase only Hammer’s proclivities. We are publishing those message streams in full.
In the early months of 2021, Hammer’s estranged wife, Elizabeth Chambers, requested that Hammer undergo a psycho-legal evaluation administered by three psychologists in the Cayman Islands in an effort to prove that he posed a danger to the couple’s two young children. That 142-page report, which Air Mail obtained exclusively, concluded, among other things, that “concerns about Mr Hammer being a perpetrator of sexual violence are unfounded.” Ultimately, the panel endorsed Hammer’s request for partial custody.
In his first interview since the scandal erupted, Hammer tells Kirchick his version of what happened. The actor insists that the sadomasochistic acts were always consensual. His need for control in such situations, he says, is the result of abuse he experienced as a 13-year-old—a not-uncommon post-rehab excuse used by the accused to explain their predations. Recovered memories of trauma that explain abusive behavior are a classic public-relations maneuver spun for talk shows and redemption tours. And yet Kirchick spoke to a source who corroborated Hammer’s story.
Hammer wants to clear his name—at least of the crimes he has been accused of. Whether he deserves it is not for us to decide, and many readers’ minds may already be made up. This report may not change how Hammer is seen, but it does give a fuller, more detailed, and fact-checked version of what happened to turn the movie star into a Hollywood pariah without a single legal charge having been filed against him.
Graydon Carter and Alessandra Stanley are the Co-Editors of Air Mail