Ronan Farrow breaks silence on NBC's handling of Weinstein story
Reporter responds to Andy Lack's staff memo, saying it contains numerous false or misleading statements
Ronan Farrow, whose stories about Harvey Weinstein shared a Pulitzer Prize with the New York Times, is breaking his silence about NBC's handling of his story after the news organization's chairman sent a staff memo, saying any speculation that the disgraced Hollywood mogul had any role in the network's rejection of the story was baseless.
In an attempt to counter any idea that pressure by Weinstein played any role in NBC's decision, chairman Andy Lack outlined Monday all the times that the mogul and his lawyers reached out to the network's executives. In each case, they were ignored or told that they would have a chance to comment if there was a story ready for broadcast, Lack said.
Farrow has not spoken in detail about his dealings with NBC News over the story, but he is writing a book about it. He posted a response on Twitter late Monday, saying the memo contains numerous false or misleading statements.
"Their list of sources is incomplete and omits women who were either identified in the NBC story or offered to be," he tweeted.
"The story was twice cleared and deemed 'reportable' by legal and standards only to be blocked by executives who refused to allow us to seek comment from Harvey Weinstein."
After reading Lack's letter emailed to staff members, Farrow's former producer, Rich McHugh, said that it pointed to the need for an independent investigation into the network's handling of the story.
On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump joined criticism of NBC News. He tweeted that NBC is now "fumbling around making excuses for their probably highly unethical conduct."
NBC FAKE NEWS, which is under intense scrutiny over their killing the Harvey Weinstein story, is now fumbling around making excuses for their probably highly unethical conduct. I have long criticized NBC and their journalistic standards-worse than even CNN. Look at their license?—@realDonaldTrump
NBC's decision not to air Farrow's story, and to let him take it to the New Yorker magazine, became an embarrassment when he later shared the Pulitzer with the New York Times for stories outlining Weinstein's alleged sexual misconduct.
Lack said he wasn't even aware the story was in the works the first time Weinstein called him. He subsequently called Lack nine times and sent four emails, "none of which were returned," he said.
He also detailed contact NBC News president Noah Oppenheim had with the Weinstein team, including the time lawyer Lanny Davis showed up at NBC's Rockefeller Center studio without an appointment. Lack also said Weinstein's team was dishonest in dealing with NBC and mischaracterized their brief conversations.
Lack repeated the contention that Farrow and NBC disagreed over whether he had a story ready for broadcast, saying the reporter had no person willing to put a name behind an accusation of Weinstein when the network said to take the story elsewhere. Seven women were identified by name in the New Yorker story.
"If some believe that decision a failure of our competitive instincts, so be it," Lack said. "But it was a decision undertaken honourably and with good intentions toward Farrow and his work."
Memo raises more questions
McHugh, who just recently left his job as an investigative producer at the network, began speaking about it last week, bringing it back into the news.
Lack said the real story is about Weinstein's behaviour and the bravery of his victims in speaking out, "rather than a back-and-forth between a reporter and his producer and a news network.
"However, we've watched with disappointment as unfounded intimations and accusations have travelled through media circles," he wrote.
McHugh contends that at the time NBC told Farrow to take his story elsewhere, he and Farrow were already in possession of an audiotape of Weinstein admitting to sexual assault. He still disagrees vehemently with NBC's decision to back away from the story.
He told The Associated Press that he was never interviewed for an internal NBC report on how it handled the story. Lack's letter raises more questions than it answers, he said.
"With many women coming forward with harrowing tales of assault and rape, whether in shadows or on record, we have a journalistic, human and moral obligation to continue reporting," he said.