Embattled NBC News Chairman Andy Lack has managed to keep his job amid a laundry list of scandals, but a new spotlight is being trained on the media honcho as tidbits from Ronan Farrow’s highly anticipated book slowly emerge.
Already feeling the heat with the book's publication still days away, Lack has begun his defense, penning a scathing letter to NBC News employees on Wednesday that took issue with Farrow’s claims.
“It disappoints me to say that even with passage of time, Farrow’s account has become neither more accurate, nor more respectful of the dedicated colleagues he worked with here at NBC News," Lack wrote in the memo obtained by Fox News. "He uses a variety of tactics to paint a fundamentally untrue picture.”
That picture of Lack's tenure as it stands is already rife with accusations of mismanagement and boys' club behavior. Lack has been accused of botching a variety of sexual misconduct issues, ranging from his claim that Ronan Farrow’s award-winning coverage of Harvey Weinstein wasn’t fit to print to insisting that the investigation into Matt Lauer’s lewd workplace behavior be conducted by fellow NBC executives instead of an outside entity.
But allegations against Lack aren’t limited to covering up for the sexual misconduct of others, he’s also been accused of a variety of wrongdoings himself. The New York Post’s Page Six obtained an excerpt of Farrow’s book, “Catch and Kill,” which has long been expected to generate an onslaught of negative publicity for the beleaguered NBC News boss.
According to the Post, the book cites an alleged victim who claims that Lack “preyed on female underlings and pursued sexual relationships with them” throughout his career.
The Post also indicated that Farrow’s book features former CBS News anchor Jane Wallace openly discussing her 1980s affair with the then-married Lack while he was her executive producer and boss. Wallace reportedly told Farrow that Lack was “almost unrelenting” in his desire to take her out to dinner and celebrate her new contract – which led to a consensual sexual affair.
“What are you gonna say? You know if you say ‘I don’t want to celebrate with you,’ you’re asking for trouble,” Wallace says in the book, according to the Post. “I got worked over.”
The extramarital affair didn’t last, and Lack reportedly turned on his former fling.
“Eventually, Wallace claimed Lack bullied her out of the job she loved — and lorded his power over her — when their relationship soured,” Page Six reporter Sara Nathan wrote before noting that Farrow’s book details Wallace’s claim that she was intimidated into signing a binding nondisclosure agreement with a “substantial payout” to protect Lack.
According to the Post, Wallace told Farrow that she “loved that job” and reluctantly walked away because of Lack’s behavior.
A source close to Lack denied Wallace’s version of events, telling the Post “the charges of retaliation are just not true.”
Wallace isn’t the only extramarital sexual partner of Lack who spoke to Farrow, according to the Post.
A young production assistant reportedly told Farrow that she had an affair with Lack, but things got ugly once it ended. Farrow reportedly wrote that Lack wouldn’t allow her to be reassigned and “compelled her to work longer hours, and on weekends, and proposed she cancel vacations.”
Jennifer Laird told Farrow, “There’s clearly a reason you don’t get involved with your boss,” according to the Post.
“In the book, a rep denied Lack ever took retaliatory action against Laird,” Nathan wrote.
NBC News did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In 2018 The Daily Beast published a bombshell report headlined, “Accused sexual harassers thrived under NBC News chief Andy Lack,” which detailed how scandals always seemed to emerge under his leadership.
Lack was the president of NBC News from 1993 until 2001 and returned to the Peacock Network in 2015 after top jobs at Sony Music and Bloomberg in between.
Citing sources, the Beast reported that Lack “protected a male employee who sexually harassed multiple women” when he was a Sony executive in between stints at NBC News.
While Lack was in power at Sony, music executive Charlie Walk reportedly sent “very graphic and totally inappropriate” pornography to female staffers, according to the Beast.
“Andy didn’t do anything,” a former Sony executive told the Beast.
After Sony, Lack went to work running the Bloomberg Media Group, where he reportedly hinted at his longtime pal Lauer’s affairs well before he would return to NBC and fire the former “Today” co-host for sexual misconduct.
“During the Bloomberg years, according to two people who worked alongside Lack, he regularly boasted of his close friendship with Lauer and spoke of knowing that Lauer was unfaithful to his then-wife,” the Beast reported.
An NBC spokesperson disputed this when reached by the Beast last year.
Despite all of the issues surrounding Lack, he has a powerful longtime ally in Stephen Burke, the executive vice president of NBC’s parent Comcast and CEO of NBCUniversal. Burke defended Lack to The Daily Beast and an NBC insider told Fox News prior to excerpts from “Catch and Kill” emerging that Burke buys Lack’s narrative that Farrow has an axe to grind when it comes to the Peacock Network.
NBCUniversal did not immediately respond to a series of questions from Fox News, including whether or not the company and Burke still stand behind Lack and a request for comment on Farrow’s book in general.
Fox News has not seen Farrow’s “Catch and Kill,” which is scheduled to be released on Tuesday. In addition to new information regarding Lack’s personal wrongdoings, the book is expected to reveal other significant damaging information related to NBC News.
On Lack’s watch the now-disgraced Weinstein reportedly leveraged NBC executives to stop Farrow from exposing him as a sexual predator with scandalous information regarding Lauer.
The former “Today” anchor was ultimately fired weeks after Farrow exposed Weinstein in his Pulitzer Prize-winning piece that was published in The New Yorker after NBC passed on it.
"Weinstein made it known to the network that he was aware of Lauer's behavior and capable of revealing it,” Farrow wrote, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Lack refused to allow an outside counsel to investigate who knew about Lauer’s sexual wrongdoings. Instead of enlisting a white-shoe law firm – which has been standard for other news organizations dealing with sexual harassment during the #MeToo era – NBC allowed in-house General Counsel Kim Harris to conduct the review.
Harris’ internal review eventually declared that Lack and NBC management were completely oblivious to Lauer’s pervy behavior. The heavily criticized internal review contradicted the Beast report that Lack knew “Lauer was unfaithful” to his wife years before the #MeToo movement changed corporate culture across America.
Farrow’s book will also contradict the internal review, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“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 the star's ouster, tell their stories in detail,” THR reporter Marisa Guthrie wrote. "NBC maintains that it had no knowledge of Lauer's behavior before he was fired."
Meanwhile, NBC News has still not explained how the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape of Donald Trump was leaked from within Lack’s news organization to the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold just in time to potentially hurt Trump weeks before the 2016 election.
Fahrenthold, like Farrow, won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting that NBC News passed on. The tape derailed the career of then-NBC host Billy Bush and Fahrenthold was later given a paid consultancy with NBC News.
Lack’s top deputy, NBC News president Noah Oppenheim, is an old college buddy of Fahrenthold from their time together at Harvard University. NBC has long denied that Oppenheim leaked the tape to Fahrenthold -- who with Oppenheim is also tied from Harvard to investor Marc Mezvinsky, the son-in-law of Hillary Clinton.
According to THR, which got access to the book, “Catch and Kill” will reveal that Clinton’s publicist Nick Merrill informed Weinstein that Farrow was poking around lewd accusations against him in the first place.