The silence is deafening. A depraved photographer accused of abusing and exploiting young models enjoys access to the entertainment industry's hottest female stars, from Rihanna to Lady Gaga to Beyonce to Miley Cyrus. He counts "progressive" feminist celebs among his most intimate friends. He's even photographed President Obama. But when confronted with his sordid history and career degradation of women, these elite friends of Terry have nothing to say.
Meet Terry Richardson (but be sure to bring your mental Purell). The Guardian touted him as "the former junkie punk who put the filth into fashion." The son of a fashion photographer, his first "success" was an image he shot for British designer Katharine Hamnett. "There was a shot of a girl, with her legs open, she had white panties," he recounted to an admiring New York Times reporter. The see-through underwear left nothing to the imagination. It was a "cool image," Richardson bragged.
The title of that fawning Times feature: "The Naughty Knave of Fashion's Court." Naughty? Try skeezy. Shady. Icky. Pervy. Richardson has mainstreamed overlit soft porn and pedophilia chic as "art." His "Terryworld" photo exhibit featured women performing oral sex on him while crammed into suitcases and trashcans. He's the warped mastermind behind Miley Cyrus's naked, phallic-drenched "Wrecking Ball" video, for which they won an MTV Europe Music Award. He persuaded Lindsay Lohan to pose with a gun to her head. He slathered Lady Gaga in red meat for Vogue. He finagled "Glee" stars Dianna Agron and Lea Michele into simulating group-sex play with the late Cory Montieth, for which Agron later apologized to fans and their appalled parents.
The leering Richardson, who insists that his subjects call him "Uncle Terry," has convinced countless women in the industry to doff their tops, bottoms, and dignity. A few, brave fashion models have publicly exposed Richardson's misogyny and manipulation. Model Rie Rasmussen told the New York Post's Page Six: "He takes girls who are young, manipulates them to take their clothes off and takes pictures of them they will be ashamed of. They are too afraid to say no because their agency booked them on the job and are too young to stand up for themselves." Veteran supermodel Coca Rocha has spoken out about Richardson's creepitude and forbidden her agents from working with the lech.
Model Sara Ziff formed the Model Alliance last year to blow the whistle on sexual harassment and abuse, after women "began to speak out in numbers against the photographer Terry Richardson for his practice of putting models on the spot to disrobe on castings, soliciting sex from them, and documenting these exploits."
These women, alas, are the exception, and not the rule. Hollywood's elite sisterhood is a sexual predator sanctuary. Powerful starlets continue to flaunt their hipster friendships with Richardson. Lady Gaga just hired him to shoot the video for her newest single, "Do What You Want (With My Body)." High-profile liberal New York City powerbroker Audrey Gelman, press secretary for Democratic city comptroller Scott Stringer, has been dating Richardson for the past few years. Gelman's bestie and fellow Oberlin College luminary, actress Lena Dunham, posed naked from the waist down for Richardson in a "V" magazine photo spread headlined — I kid you not — "Girl Power."
These women wear their feminist politics on their sleeves (or their sleeveless, tattooed arms). They take to Twitter regularly to moan about the GOP's "war on women." They mock conservatives as retrograde and sexist. But when asked about their relationship with a notorious sexist pig who has made a career out of humiliating women (did I mention the time he scrawled "SLUT" across one girl's forehead), the femme role models are AWOL.
Last month, the Times spilled a barrel of ink on Gelman's rising political star. The paper noted her relationship with Richardson in passing, and noted the publicity-hungry couple's selective reticence: "Ms. Gelman generally refuses to discuss her personal life. And Mr. Richardson, who is 48, declined to be interviewed." Earlier this month, the New York Post's Maureen Callahan zeroed in on Richardson's perv history and asked both the outspoken Gelman and Dunham for a response. Cue the chirping crickets: "Dunham and Gelman would not comment for this article."
Young women, whatever your politics, take note. This is not "girl power." It's chauvinist power. This soulless shutterbug has supposedly enlightened women right where he wants them: Servile, subordinate and disempowered. Terry Richardson's enablers, the poseurs of feminism, are selling out their sisters in the name of "fashion" and "art." It's not hip. It's sick.
Michelle Malkin is the author of "Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks and Cronies" (Regnery 2010). Her e-mail address is [email protected]