Did NBC News try to kill the Harvey Weinstein story?
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column addressing the seemingly long-lasting effects of the #MeToo movement. The social phenomenon, which called on the carpet a rampant culture of sexual harassment and misconduct — and toxic masculinity, more generally — from Hollywood to Washington, D.C., brought down some of the most powerful men in America.
And it all started with Ronan Farrow’s blockbuster reporting on media mogul Harvey Weinstein in “The New Yorker.”
Last week, a ton of questions resurfaced surrounding the reporting of that piece — “From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories” — for which Farrow ultimately won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
At the time, there was some murmurs that NBC News, Farrow’s former employer, had pulled the plug on the story just as the allegations were becoming more and more credible. As the #MeToo movement began to reach a fever pitch, all of the allegations — against Weinstein, and then many, many others — seemed to drown out the alleged questionable conduct at NBC News.
But late last week, new evidence came to light when, within a few minutes of one another on Thursday, The Daily Beast and The New York Times each dropped stories about NBC’s mishandling of Farrow’s reporting. The Times’ John Koblin had the first interview with Farrow’s producing partner, Rich McHugh, who left NBC News in early August. Meanwhile, The Daily Beast published a profile outlining “back-biting inside the network,” and alleging that NBC threatened Farrow if he kept reporting on Weinstein.
In The Times’ article, McHugh said that NBC was “resistant” toward Farrow’s reporting on Weinstein from the beginning.
"NBC has some of the finest journalists in the business — this is not about them,” McHugh wrote in an email to CNN’s Brian Stelter after the story in The Times broke. “This is about the leadership at NBC. At a critical juncture in our reporting on Harvey Weinstein, as we were about to interview a woman with a credible allegation of rape against him, I was told not to do the interview and ordered to stand down, thus effectively killing the story. Those orders came to me from the highest levels of NBC. That was unethical, and a massive breach of journalistic integrity."
Almost immediately, NBC pushed back, calling the allegations that it tried to kill the story “an outright lie.” NBC claims that Farrow “did not yet have a single victim of — or witness to — misconduct by Weinstein who was willing to be identified,” according to a network spokesperson. Unhappy over NBC’s decision, Farrow told the network that he would leave for a print outlet who he claimed was willing to publish the story immediately.
“NBC News told him 'we will not stand in your way,' and allowed him to take his reporting to The New Yorker, where, two months later, he published a strong piece that cited the following victims by name: Asia Argento, Mira Sorvino, Rosanna Arquette, Lucia Evans, Emma de Canes, Jessica Barth, and Sophie Dix,” the spokesperson said. “Not one of these seven women was included in the reporting Farrow presented while at NBC News."
But another colleague, ABC News reporter Chris Francescani, stands by Farrow and McHugh’s account of how the whole thing went down.
"I worked in the [NBC News] Investigative Unit in the fall of 2016,” he tweeted last week. “[Rich McHugh and Ronan Farrow] are telling the truth. [NBC News] executives are not."
Farrow remained silent in the days after the news broke. But he is reportedly working on a book about his time reporting on the Weinstein story while at NBC News. It is expected to be titled “Catch & Kill.”
No publication date has been set, but we will probably be getting Farrow’s full account in the not-so-distant future. Stay tuned.
— Originally Published in the Las Cruces Sun-News, 09/06/18