NEW YORK - An award-winning US comedian on Friday became the latest entertainment industry heavyweight to watch his career unravel over accusations of sexual misconduct when he admitted to masturbating in front of women.
Louis CK was dumped by Netflix, his publicist, the television networks FX and HBO, and his upcoming movie, which had showcased a relationship between an ageing filmmaker and a teenage girl, was scrapped.
An extraordinary statement of guilt from the 50-year-old did nothing to limit the fallout as the entertainment industry grapples with scandals that have already sunk the careers of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey.
"These stories are true," said the writer, actor and stand-up comedian in a statement released to US media a day after America's most prestigious newspaper published accusations from the women saying that he masturbated or asked to masturbate in front of them or on the telephone in separate incidents dating from the late 1990s to 2005.
"At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true," he said.
"But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn't a question. It's a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me.
"And I wielded that power irresponsibly," he said.
The comedian did not explicitly apologise but he said in his statement: "I have been remorseful of my actions."
It was the frankest public admission of guilt from an accused man since a spate of sexual harassment and abuse scandals broke in early October, disgracing not just Weinstein and Spacey but also implicating directors such as James Toback and 1980s action star Steven Seagal.
Louis CK said there was "nothing about this that I forgive myself for" and claimed he could "hardly wrap my head around the scope of hurt I brought" on the women and colleagues with whom he has worked, now impacted by the scandal.
But it was not enough to stop his career spinning out of control. The distributor of his new movie "I Love You, Daddy" said it would not go ahead with its release and HBO dropped him from a comedy benefit concert due to air next week, US media reported.
Netflix announced that it was abandoning a second stand-up special featuring the star in the wake of what it called his "unprofessional and inappropriate behaviour with female colleagues." The first had debuted in April.
CK's long-time collaborator Pamela Adlon, who has worked with him on numerous projects including the sitcom "Louie" for which she won four Emmys, also issued a statement condemning her "friend."
"My family and I are devastated and in shock after the admission of abhorrent behaviour by my friend and partner, Louis CK" she said.
"I feel deep sorrow and empathy for the women who have come forward," she added.
FX, which has produced five shows with the star, announced that it was cutting all ties with the comedian and his production company.
"Now is not the time for him to make television shows. Now is the time for him to honestly address the women who have come forth to speak about their painful experiences, a process which he began today with his public statement," it said.