NBC killed Weinstein reporting because of accusations against their own host, alleges Ronan Farrow
Farrow's new book looks at obstacles to breaking story that helped start #MeToo
Originally published on Oct. 28, 2019.
Investigative journalist Ronan Farrow says he once looked up to disgraced NBC host Matt Lauer as "something of a mentor," who was "very supportive of the kind of tough investigative reporting that I wanted to do."
But in his new book, Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators, Farrow writes that Lauer's eyes "snapped back" when he found out the reporter was investigating sexual assault in Hollywood.
"It certainly seemed like a theme that he noticed when I rattled off the list of stories I was working on," he told The Current's guest host Duncan McCue.
Months later, Lauer faced his own allegations of sexual misconduct. In Nov. 2017, he was fired from his role as the host of The Today Show.
In his book, Farrow claims his own investigation — into sexual assault and harassment allegations against film executive Harvey Weinstein — was stymied by NBC, in what he alleges was a bid to stop the allegations against Lauer from coming to light. NBC has disputed his allegations previously.
Farrow's investigation was published in New Yorker magazine in Oct. 2017. The story helped to start the #MeToo movement, and shared in a Pulitzer Prize. Farrow had tried to publish the story with NBC, but brought it to the New Yorker after what he alleges were efforts by NBC to shut down his reporting on Weinstein.
Last year, Andy Lack, the chairman of NBC News, wrote in an email to employees that Farrow's story had not been "ready for air" and that Farrow did not have on-camera, on-the-record interviews for the network to broadcast.
Farrow claims Weinstein leveraged Lauer allegations
In the book, Farrow also alleges Weinstein knew about the misconduct allegations against Lauer, and had "made it known to the network" that he was "capable of revealing it."
Weinstein faces trial in January on charges he raped a woman in 2013 and performed a forcible sex act on a different woman in 2006. He maintains any sexual activity was consensual. He is currently free on bail and was publicly jeered when he attended a recent actors' showcase in New York.
Farrow alleges that he "talked to senior executives who knew [about the Lauer allegations] years before he was fired."
Several other allegations of misconduct by Lauer subsequently became public, all of which Lauer has denied.
When the book was released this month, Noah Oppenheim, president of NBC News, wrote to employees that "there is no evidence of any reports of Matt Lauer's misconduct before his firing. No settlements, no hush money, no way we have found that NBC's current leadership could have been aware of his misdeeds in the past."
Farrow said there was "a wider pattern of secret settlements to conceal misconduct allegations, both about Lauer and about others in senior leadership positions at this network."
He said his book is about "patterns of corporate conduct and legal practices at corporations that cover up problems and sweep them under the rug ... instead of actually removing potential abusers from power."
Every story that I report against powerful interests or organizations, I get this same kind of rhetoric thrown at me.- Ronan Farrow
The CBC has not independently corroborated the reporting in Farrow's book. NBC did not respond to The Current's request for comment.
On Friday, prominent MSNBC host Rachel Maddow addressed the issue in a live show, saying she and other NBC News employees had deep concerns about how Farrow's investigation had been handled. She questioned why executives at the organization had not invited an independent inquiry into the matter.
NBC says Farrow has 'axe to grind'
Following the book's publication, Oppenheim dismissed Farrow as a disgruntled employee with "an axe to grind" — a characterization that Farrow shrugs off.
"Every story that I report against powerful interests or organizations, I get this same kind of rhetoric thrown at me," he told McCue.
"That's true of basically every investigative reporter who works on a tough story," he added.
Farrow said that Weinstein hired "an army of private investigators," including "the Israeli firm Black Cube, which deployed agents using false identities and front companies and cover stories to, you know, actively gaslight and deceive women with allegations."
Farrow claims he too was followed by Black Cube agents, and was even advised by "sources" to get a gun for his own safety.
"I moved out of my place, I did put all my sensitive reporting material in a safety deposit box, and it was quite nerve-wracking," he said.
The Current requested comment from Black Cube, but didn't receive a response.
Farrow said it's just as important to remember what his sources were going through at the same time.
"They were targeted, they were gaslit, they were also coming forward with stories that were profoundly re-traumatizing to tell," he said.
"I think my own experiences pale in comparison to that."
Written by Allie Jaynes. Interview produced by Howard Goldenthal.