Filmmaker Woody Allen has said he feels "sad" for Harvey Weinstein as sexual assault allegations mount against the Hollywood mogul.
In an interview with the BBC, Allen said "the whole Harvey Weinstein thing is very sad for everybody involved."
"[It's] tragic for the poor women that were involved, sad for Harvey that his life is so messed up. There's no winners in that, it's just very, very sad and tragic for those poor women that had to go through that."
Allen has worked with Weinstein several times in the past, and Weinstein has been credited with reviving the director's career after he was accused of abusing his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow.
The allegations against Allen emerged in the early 1990s following his separation from actress Mia Farrow. Allen has aways denied any wrongdoing.
Allen went on to tell the BBC he had heard "rumors" but never anything about Weinstein assaulting or raping women.
"No one ever came to me or told me horror stories with any real seriousness. And they wouldn't, because you are not interested in it. You are interested in making your movie," he said.
"But you do hear a million fanciful rumors all the time. And some turn out to be true and some – many – are just stories about this actress, or that actor."
He added that he hoped the allegations against Weinstein wouldn't lead to a "witch hunt" in the industry.
“You don’t want it to lead to a witch-hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere, where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself," Allen told the BBC. "That’s not right either. But sure, you hope that something like this could be transformed into a benefit for people rather than just a sad or tragic situation.”
Actress Rose McGowan, who has said she was assaulted by Weinstein and reached a $100,000 settlement with him when she was 23, was one of the first to react to Allen's comments.
McGowan was not the only person to show anger at Allen's comments.
Faced with a barrage of criticism Sunday, Allen later attempted to clarify his remarks. “When I said I felt sad for Harvey Weinstein I thought it was clear the meaning was because he is a sad, sick man,” he said in a statement to Variety. “I was surprised it was treated differently. Lest there be any ambiguity, this statement clarifies my intention and feelings.”
Weinstein, who checked himself into rehab this week, insists any sexual contacts he had were consensual.
His spokeswoman Sallie Hofmeister said in a statement: "Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr Weinstein."