The Hollywood Reporter has a long feature out about Ronan Farrow’s new book Catch and Kill and boy is it deeply unflattering for NBC News.
We already know that NBC has been accused of stifling Farrow’s #MeToo and Harvey Weinstein reporting (something the network has always denied), but Catch and Kill apparently contains sweeping new allegations about the extent of NBC’s journalistic perfidy when it came to Farrow’s work. Here are just a few of them (emphasis mine throughout).
Harvey Weinstein used Matt Lauer’s alleged misconduct as a weapon against NBC
“Weinstein made it known to the network that he was aware of Lauer’s behavior and capable of revealing it,” Farrow writes...citing anonymous sources at NBC and AMI, Farrow, 31, claims that Weinstein was using the Enquirer’s accumulated dirt on the Today show star’s alleged workplace misconduct to pressure NBC executives to kill Farrow’s long-gestating Weinstein exposé. (Farrow also includes a denial from NBC that a specific threat was ever communicated. And in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, the network says: “NBC News was never contacted by AMI, or made aware in any way of any threats from them, or from anyone else, for that matter. And the idea of NBC News taking a threat seriously from a tabloid company about Matt Lauer is especially preposterous, since they already covered him with great regularity.”)
One way to know you might have a problem at your network is if a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist credibly reports that Harvey Weinstein tried to use your top anchor’s lengthy history of sexual misconduct against you as blackmail. This, I venture, is not a position a network should find itself in! (The book also contains an accusation of rape against Lauer by a former NBC News employee, which Lauer has denied.)
Weinstein was in constant contact with top NBC News executives
It includes new details of Weinstein’s personal interactions with NBC News and MSNBC chairman Andy Lack, NBC News president Noah Oppenheim and MSNBC president Phil Griffin (a frequent enough occurrence that Weinstein’s assistants who were asked to place phone calls to the men dubbed them “the triumvirate”).
In October 2017, after the Times broke its story, [NBCUniversal vice chair Ron] Meyer apparently called Weinstein to offer what Farrow characterizes as his support. Farrow quotes from Weinstein’s response: “Dear Ron, I just got your message, and thank you.”
In one early call to Lack in spring 2017, Weinstein complained that the accusations against him were ancient history. “It was the ‘90s. You know? Did I go out with an assistant or two that I shouldn’t have, did I sleep with one or two of them, sure. We all did that.” Lack does not engage on this point but says, “Harvey, say no more. We’ll look into it.” (Farrow declines to divulge his sources for calls with Lack and Griffin but allows that the records he obtained include “contemporaneous accounts from people who were on the line during calls.” Weinstein continues to deny any non-consensual sex.)
Though his contract with NBC News would not expire until October 2017, Farrow says by September, Weinstein was given assurances by executives that he was no longer working on the story for NBC. Farrow cites a phone call in which Griffin told Weinstein the story was not running as well as a call between Weinstein attorney David Boies and Lack during which Lack told Boies: “We’ve told Harvey we’re not doing a story. If we decide to do a story, we’ll tell him.” Weinstein was ecstatic, boasting in his offices that he would also quash the rumored Times piece: “If I can get a network to kill a story, how hard can a newspaper be?” Later, Weinstein would send Oppenheim an email acknowledging their prior friction (“I know we’ve been on opposite sides of the fence …”) and complimenting Megyn Kelly’s morning TV debut: “… she was terrific … the format is outstanding …” (He did not mention Farrow.) Oppenheim responded: “Thanks Harvey, appreciate the well-wishes!” Weinstein then sent Oppenheim a bottle of Grey Goose vodka.
So, to recap: Harvey Weinstein was allegedly in frequent enough contact with senior NBC executives that there was a nickname for them; NBC executives allegedly called him to commiserate after the Times first exposed his crimes; NBC executives allegedly personally informed him that Farrow’s story had been quashed; Weinstein allegedly crowed that he had successfully killed an investigation into him; and the president of NBC News, who had obviously been hearing about the accusations against Weinstein through Farrow’s reporting, allegedly remained chummy with him after Farrow had been squelched.
Is this a network operating in the way an ethical network should operate? You tell me. (NBC has heatedly denied any impropriety in its handling of the Weinstein story and maintained that it killed Farrow’s reporting because it did not meet its journalistic standards, a defense it repeated to THR. Oppenheim told the magazine that the New Yorker story Farrow ultimately published on Weinstein “turned out to be completely different than what he had presented to us.”)
NBC’s knowledge of Matt Lauer’s alleged misconduct was much wider than previously reported
More explosively, Farrow uncovers seven allegations of workplace sexual misconduct by Lauer that seem to contradict the network’s stance that management had no knowledge of his behavior as well as seven nondisclosure agreements — many with hush-money payouts — to accusers of Lauer and others at NBC. Multiple Lauer accusers, including the woman whose complaint to NBC’s human resources department resulted in Lauer’s ouster, tell their stories in detail.
NBC maintains that it had no knowledge of Lauer’s behavior before he was fired. A spokesperson tells THR: “Only following his termination did we reach agreements with two women who had come forward for the very first time, and those women have always been free to share their stories about Lauer with anyone they choose.”
There’s a lot more in the full THR story, but the allegations all point to a corporate culture that is seriously damaged and a journalistic culture that prizes clubbiness with power over legitimate accountability. The question NBC News has never answered satisfactorily is why, if it felt like Farrow wasn’t nailing the Weinstein story, it didn’t let him keep trying and trying. Instead—whether through what it claims was its forbiddingly high journalistic rigor or what Farrow claims was its journalistic immorality—it lost one of the biggest stories of the last decade. Not great for an organization with “news” in the title.
Update, 4:01 p.m. ET: NBC News chairman Andrew Lack has responded broadly to the claims in Farrow’s book via a statement to NBC reporter Dylan Byers: