Lena Zawaideh, the musician who accused Olympic snowboarder Shaun White of sexual harassment, is clapping back at the star, who won his third gold for the U.S. on Wednesday, after he dismissed her allegations as “gossip” in a triumphant post-event press conference.
Her lawyer issued a forthright statement declaring that “No woman wants to be called a ‘gossip’ or a liar by the harasser.”
Zawaideh, who was a drummer in a rock band led by White, accused him of sending her porn and suggestive text messages and claims he even demanded she change her hairstyle, in a 2016 lawsuit. Many of the text messages were included in her filings. White denied the allegations but settled with Zawaideh in 2017.
After White refused to answer questions on the subject at a press conference yesterday—saying, “I’m here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip and stuff”—Zawaideh issued a carefully worded statement through her legal team to TMZ Sports.
“Yesterday, Shaun White used the word ‘gossip’ to refer to the past sexual-harassment lawsuit by his former drummer... our client,” wrote Zawaideh’s lawyer, Lawrance Bohm.
“There are powerful legal forces at play which prevent Ms. Zawaideh from speaking about the allegations and ultimate outcome of the sexual harassment case.”
“Before Mr. White made his comments, [she] believed that this matter was in the past and she was happy to put the situation behind her... Unfortunately, by his recent comments and conduct, Mr. White has minimized the problem of sexual harassment in this country.”
“Mr. White’s comments, on the world stage, directly impugn the character of Ms. Zawaideh. No woman wants to be called a ‘gossip’ or a liar by the harasser. Minimizing sexual harassment maximizes the harm to Ms. Zawaideh.”
Bohm’s statement concluded by taking aim at NBC’s marketing campaign, which tagged White as “the best of the U.S.” saying, “Hopefully, before our country declares someone ‘the best of the U.S.,” there will be investigation and due diligence."
White himself apologized for describing the sexual harassment case as “gossip.”
He told NBC’s Today: “I’m truly sorry that I chose the word ‘gossip.’ It was a poor choice of words to describe a sensitive subject in the world today. I was so overwhelmed with just wanting to talk about the news today… I feel like I’m a much more changed person than I was when I was younger.”
When he faced these allegations, White turned to the same law firm as Harvey Weinstein and other celebrities accused of sexual misconduct—Glaser Weil, in Los Angeles, according to USA Today. The firm’s lead attorney, Patricia Glaser, has made a name for herself in representing similar cases; in the past year alone, besides Weinstein, she’s represented other men accused of sexual misconduct, including former Fox Sports executive Jamie Horowitz, who was fired last year on sexual-harassment charges.
As reported by The Daily Beast, the graphic lawsuit against White alleged that during the seven years she spent with his band, “White sent sexually explicit and graphic images to Zawaideh of engorged and erect penises, forced her to watch sexually disturbing videos, including videos sexualizing human fecal matter, and made vulgar sexual remarks to her such as, ‘Don’t forget to suck his balls!’ when commenting on her boyfriend. At one point, White stuck his hands down his pants, approached Zawaideh, and stuck his hands in her face trying to make her smell them.”
Zawaideh claimed that an intoxicated White attempted to kiss her at a Halloween party in October 2010; “Another time, White put his buttocks directly in Zawaideh’s face. Still another time, White grabbed Zawaideh’s buttocks shortly after leaving practice for the day.”
In response to Zawaideh’s allegations, White said: “Many years ago, I exchanged texts with a friend who is now using them to craft a bogus lawsuit. There is absolutely no coincidence to the timing of her claims, and we will defend them vigorously in court."
However, he ultimately settled without admitting guilt.