‘You can break a person’: Widow of #MeToo witch-hunt victim blames campaign for husband’s suicide

‘You can break a person’: Widow of #MeToo witch-hunt victim blames campaign for husband’s suicide
Sweden’s #MeToo movement has come under fire after its most prominent target committed suicide. However, an investigation failed to prove accusations against Benny Fredriksson, a leading figure in Stockholm’s art world.

Fredriksson was the artistic director of the Swedish capital’s arts and culture center Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, and the husband of Swedish opera superstar Anne Sofie von Otter. Last December, he resigned after anonymous reports surfaced in the media that he had sexually abused employees.

On March 17, while he was accompanying his wife on a singing tour of Australia, Fredriksson took his own life.

In an expansive interview with German newspaper Die Zeit, von Otter lashed out at the #MeToo movement and those who had demonized her husband, telling the paper how her husband had spiraled into the “deepest depression.” She accused the movement against sexual harassment of encouraging a mob mentality. “You can break a person,” the internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano, 63, added.

“We all have good and bad sides, but we no longer live in the Middle Ages,” she said. “We do not publicly pillory anyone and spit on or stone him or her.”

Von Otter also said she hoped her husband’s death would be a “rude awakening” for the tabloids that destroyed him.

Some 40 anonymous sources came out of the woodwork to speak to Sweden’s tabloid paper, Aftonbladet, accusing Fredriksson of a multitude of sexual abuse offences in an expose on December 4. The allegations included reports that the 58-year old pressured a woman to have an abortion or lose a role, and made another woman rehearse naked. Another woman claimed that he told her she should work as a freelancer for refusing to accept roles with sex scenes.

Other Swedish tabloids also picked up the story, with the Expressen publishing claims that he was called a “despot” and “a little Hitler.” Accusations against Fredriksson continued on social media until he resigned from his post in December.

An internal city investigation failed to substantiate the claims. Sweden’s press ombudsman has declined to confirm the existence of an independent review, but Aftonbladet publisher Lena K. Samuelsson has said that her paper’s coverage of the accusations is being examined.

Prominent figures in Sweden’s art and culture community have lashed out over the Fredriksson tragedy, with interim head of the Kulturhuset Stadsteatern Sture Carlsson telling the Irish Times that Fredriksson “abandoned his life’s work abruptly as a result of a boundless media campaign.” He added that “it was both terribly sad and unfair… a big tragedy.”

Prize-winning Swedish novelist Lotta Lundberg said that the #MeToo movement had allowed a witch hunt to be carried out against Fredriksson in a way “that would make any trashy tabloid paper blush.”

In December, only a week after allegations against the 58-year old surfaced, ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ star Noomi Rapace raised concerns about the feminist campaign in the Aftonbladet, pointing out that Sweden’s #MeToo campaign fails to look at the motivation behind accusations made by the women involved. She said that women agree to “play the game,” which she witnessed “in Stockholm early on and I saw it in the film business in LA.”

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