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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Oscars body expels Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski

First major decision by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences taken since #MeToo movement

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Board of Governors has voted to expel Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski from its membership. The film academy said Thursday that its board of governors met Tuesday night and voted on their status in accordance with their Standards of Conduct. AP Photo
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Board of Governors has voted to expel Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski from its membership. The film academy said Thursday that its board of governors met Tuesday night and voted on their status in accordance with their Standards of Conduct. AP Photo

The organisation that bestows the Academy Awards announced Thursday that it has voted to expel two prominent members convicted of sexual offenses, Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski, from its membership.

It's the first major decision since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences implemented revised standards of conduct for its over 8,400 members following its expulsion of disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein in October. In Polanski's case, the expulsion comes more than 40 years after he was accused of raping a 13-year-old girl, and 15 years after he won a best director Oscar.

The academy wrote in a statement that its board of governors met Tuesday night and voted on their status in accordance with the new standards.

Polanski, who won a best director Oscar for 2002's The Pianist, remains a fugitive after pleading guilty to unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl he plied with champagne and Quaaludes during a photo shoot in 1977. He fled the United States in 1978. Cosby was convicted last week of sexual assault in Pennsylvania, for drugging and molesting Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia mansion 14 years ago.

Representatives for Cosby and Polanski did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

In a statement, the film academy said its board "continues to encourage ethical standards that require members to uphold the Academy's values of respect for human dignity."

Adopted in December, the code of conduct stipulates that the academy is no place for "people who abuse their status, power or influence in a manner that violates standards of decency."

The academy's board may now suspend or expel those who violate the code of conduct or who "compromise the integrity" of the academy.

Before Weinstein, only one person is thought to have been previously expelled from the academy: Carmine Caridi, a character actor who had his membership revoked in 2004 for lending DVD screeners of films in contention for Oscars that ended up online.

The film academy came under intense scrutiny following Weinstein's expulsion and the rise of the #MeToo movement for some of its active members, like Cosby, Polanski and Mel Gibson. It even became late-night fodder for people like John Oliver. Because its members are not made public, occasionally incorrect assumptions are made about who are part of the organisation. Woody Allen, for one, is not.

The organisation has faced a number of challenges in the Time's Up era, including the question of whether or not Casey Affleck would present the best actress Oscar this past March in accordance with tradition. Mr Affleck, who settled a pair of civil lawsuits accusing him of sexual harassment in 2010 during the production of the mockumentary I'm Still Here, bowed out of the task himself early in the year. Jodie Foster and Jennifer Lawrence ended up presenting the award instead.

Its president John Bailey also recently faced an allegation of sexual misconduct but was cleared after a committee and an outside law firm investigated the claim and unanimously voted that no other action was required and that Bailey would remain in his position.