November 28, 2016 2:41 pm
Updated: November 29, 2016 3:31 pm

Did racism sweep Casey Affleck’s sex-assault allegations under the rug?

Casey Affleck attends The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Official Academy Screening of 'Manchester By the Sea' on November 19, 2016 in New York City.

Robin Marchant/Getty Images for Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

It’s now old news that Birth of a Nation director and star Nate Parker was accused of participating in a gang rape back in 1999.

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He was acquitted by a jury in 2001, but as far as some media outlets and the court of public opinion are concerned, he’s still guilty of the crime; any award buzz surrounding Birth of a Nation has all but disappeared since its run at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.

Parker has been consistently asked about the alleged sex assault at press conferences and interviews, and despite multiple attempts to silence them, he’s still asked almost a full year after the festival.

READ MORE: Nate Parker ‘devastated’ after learning of his rape accuser’s suicide

So are you aware that actor Casey Affleck, Manchester By the Sea star and younger brother to A-lister Ben, has also been accused of sexual assault? The accusations against Affleck — ranging from inappropriate touching to verbal intimidation — are civil rather than criminal. They come from two women and reportedly took place on many occasions.

Affleck’s lawyer characterized the womens’ accusations as mere attempts to extort money, and both cases were settled out of court for an unknown sum. Affleck was not acquitted of the charges since they never went to trial, but for whatever reason, the public seems to be blissfully unaware of his alleged sexual misconduct, and the media (give or take a few analytical articles) is turning a blind eye.

In fact, Affleck is a top contender for an Oscar this year for his work in Manchester. There has been barely any hemming or hawing about his past, no calls for his film to be boycotted (like Birth of a Nation), and he refuses to discuss the cases with anyone brave enough to ask. More disturbing still are the multiple witnesses who claim to have seen Affleck engaging in an abusive and harassing manner.

READ MORE: Nate Parker of Birth of a Nation refuses to talk about past, cuts interviews short at festival

Some publications have speculated that race has everything to do with it: African-American Nate Parker is presumed guilty, despite the acquittal 15 years ago, while white Casey Affleck is given the benefit of the doubt.

Let’s break down the accusations.

Nate Parker

Nate Parker attends the 2016 Essence Black Women In Hollywood awards luncheon on February 25, 2016.

Earl Gibson III/Getty Images for Essence

Parker was charged and later acquitted of raping an 18-year-old woman while he was a student and wrestler at Penn State University. He was 19 years old at the time.

Charged along with his roommate Jean Celestin (who allegedly raped the woman with Parker and is a co-writer of Birth of a Nation), Parker claimed the sex was consensual, while the woman insisted she was unconscious during the encounter. She said she was also stalked and harassed by both men after she reported the assault. Parker and Celestin were suspended from the wrestling team (for violation of team rules), and Parker transferred to an Oklahoma college.

As noted, a jury eventually acquitted Parker of the charges, partially because he and the alleged victim had consensual sex before the purported rape. Celestin was found guilty of sexual assault, and was sentenced to six months in jail. Celestin appealed the verdict and was granted a new trial, but the case never went to court because the prosecutors felt that tracking down all the former witnesses would be impossible and let the case drop.

The accuser in the case (who has never been identified publicly) committed suicide in 2012.

WATCH BELOW: Nate Parker addresses rape scandal

Casey Affleck

Accusations against Affleck are more varied and cover a greater period of time. Two women, one a cinematographer and the other a producer, filed two separate lawsuits in 2010 accusing Affleck of sexual harassment and unwanted physical touching while shooting the fake Joaquin Phoenix documentary I’m Still Here.

At the time of the alleged offences (which supposedly took place during the 2009 shooting of the film), Affleck was in his mid-30s and was fairly well known on the Hollywood circuit. Producer Amanda White and cinematographer Magdalena Gorka sued Affleck for $2 million and $2.25 million respectively, claiming they were subjected to bizarre and humiliating behaviour, often sexually demeaning in nature.

White claimed that Affleck called multiple women “cows,” hired prostitutes “for his personal gratification” during filming (some sources say Phoenix was involved in this too), groped her when she said no to his sexual advances and demanded a videographer flash his genitals at her.

READ MORE: Madea Halloween beats Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise and Ben Affleck at box office

Gorka said she was subjected to a “near daily barrage of sexual comments, innuendo and unwelcome advances” by the film crew, encouraged by Affleck himself. One particularly disturbing incident involves an allegedly drunk Affleck getting into Gorka’s bed while she was sleeping.

Gorka claims that one night, Affleck offered up his bed for her to sleep in while he slept on the couch. From her lawsuit:

Affleck had his arm around her and was caressing her back and his face was right next to hers … Plaintiff was shocked and repulsed because she did not know where he had touched her while she was sleeping … [Gorka] immediately jumped up and told Affleck to get out of her bed. Affleck responded by asking “Why?” Plaintiff said “Because you are married and because you are my boss.” Affleck, undeterred, asked if Plaintiff “was sure.” Plaintiff said she was sure and insisted that he leave the room. Affleck left and slammed the door in anger.

(At the time, Affleck was married to Phoenix’s sister, Summer. The pair is now separated.)

Both cases were settled out of court and both lawsuits were dismissed in late 2010. Most likely, there is a non-disclosure agreement as part of the settlements, so the public will never know what happened during the legal proceedings, or how much the women settled for.

Awards likelihood

Parker is now virtually absent from all Oscar chatter and award predictions, despite being the talk of the town a year ago. Even though Fox Searchlight (the studio behind the film) did its best to stifle the conversation around Parker’s past, it has evidently had a major impact on the film’s reception.

WATCH: Ben Affleck goes on angry, expletive-laden ‘Deflategate’ rant

On the flip side of things, Affleck is being celebrated for his work in Manchester, and is considered an Academy Award shoo-in. At the very least, many outlets predict, he will be a Best Actor nominee. He’s already garnered ample praise for his performance, and will be awarded the Desert Palm Achievement Award at the Palm Springs Film Festival in January.

There is a slight rumbling in the media that the accusations against Affleck may impact his award chances, but with the bulk of nominations coming in the next two months (the Golden Globes on Dec. 12, Oscars on Jan. 24), it’s unlikely that the positive Manchester tide will be halted.

NOTE: A previous version of this article claimed that Nate Parker’s accuser wasn’t willing to testify. This is incorrect and the article has been updated. We have made the changes and regret the error.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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