By Joseph Wulfsohn, Brian Flood
Published September 20, 2019
Liberal MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Thursday sat down with the two New York Times reporters who helped break the Harvey Weinstein scandal in 2017, but failed to mention how her famous employer "killed" the story when it passed on Ronan Farrow’s reporting that would have exposed the disgraced Hollywood heavy hitter well before it was published elsewhere.
Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, the co-authors of the new book, "She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement," appeared on "The Rachel Maddow Show" to promote what Maddow herself ironically called "one of the world's great books about journalism."
Maddow began the segment by reading a lengthy excerpt from the book, which details Kantor and Twohey's investigative journey behind the Weinstein scandal.
"'What had once been a historical corrective suddenly seemed a far more urgent pursuit. No one had ever stopped this man. If the reporters failed to publish their findings, he might go on to hurt someone else,'" Maddow read the passage to her viewers.
The MSNBC pundit praised the "reporting process" Kantor and Twohey outlined in their book and later asked them about the security firms Weinstein hired to surveil his victims and journalists who were investigating him. Twohey responded by name-dropping Farrow, who exposed Weinstein's ties to Black Cube, a firm founded by former Israeli spies.
Maddow failed to mention that Farrow reported out much of Weinstein’s sexual misconduct when he was still her NBC News colleague but network honchos didn’t allow him to air it. The Peacock Network claimed that Farrow’s story, as they’d seen it, did not meet their editorial standards. Farrow took his reporting to the New Yorker, where it won a Pulitzer Prize and helped spark the #MeToo movement.
Maddow even credited the “support of the institution of The New York Times” for being “willing” to expose Weinstein as a sexual predator, which could be interpreted as a subtle shot at her own network.
“You do need the kind of work that you guys had and the kind of support you had to do it in order to make this happen,” she said
Maddow never mentioned that NBC News could have beaten Kantor and Twohey to the punch, but she did host Farrow on her show back in October 2017 and asked the celebrity scion why he didn’t break the Weinstein news at NBC.
"You would have to ask NBC and NBC executives about the details of that story,” Farrow responded. “I’m not going to comment on any news organization’s story that they did or didn’t run. I will say that over many years, many news organizations have circled this story and faced a great deal of pressure in doing so. And there are now reports emerging publicly about the kinds of pressure that news organizations face in this. And that is real.”
It wasn't until 2018 when he and Rich McHugh, a former producer at NBC News, began exposing the resistance they faced from the network as they were pursuing the story, from "the very highest levels at NBC."
McHugh, who left the network's investigative unit in August 2018, told Fox News the order came as he and Farrow were preparing to travel to Los Angeles to interview a woman "with a credible allegation of rape" against the now-disgraced movie producer.
"I was told not to do the interview and ordered to stand down, thus effectively killing the story," McHugh said. "That was unethical, and a massive breach of journalistic integrity.
"Is there anyone in the journalistic community who actually believes NBC didn’t breach its journalistic duty to continue reporting this story?" McHugh added. "Something else must have been going on."
NBC News has denied that it tried to kill the Weinstein story and its embattled chairman, Andy Lack, released a 10-page memo detailing why it didn't run Farrow's reporting and cited numerous elements to the Pulitzer Prize-winning report he suggested were not solid enough to air at the Peacock Network.
Farrow offered a scathing response on Twitter after Lack released the memo.
“I’ve avoided commenting on the specifics of NBC’s role in the Weinstein story to keep the focus on the women and their allegations. But executives there have now produced a memo that contains numerous false or misleading statements, so I’ll say briefly: their list of sources is incomplete and omits women who were either identified in the NBC story or offered to be,” Farrow wrote.
“The suggestion to take the story to another outlet was first raised by NBC, not me, and I took them up on it only after it became clear that I was being blocked from further reporting. 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,” Farrow continued. “I loved my time at NBC. It’s a place filled with talented, dedicated journalists, many of whom have reached out to me in frustration. They are owed an honest accounting of what happened.”
Weinstein accuser Emily Nestor, who had collaborated with Farrow for his report, also contradicted NBC’s memo.
Observers have long pondered whether NBC executives’ reluctance to expose Weinstein was linked to what Vanity Fair once called a “glass houses” problem. The network fired its biggest star, Matt Lauer, for sexual misconduct shortly after Weinstein was exposed. NBC also came under fire for refusing to hire an independent, white-shoe law firm to investigate who knew about Lauer’s behavior.
Instead, the Lauer review was headed by NBCUniversal General Counsel Kim Harris, who eventually declared network executives were completely oblivious to Lauer’s pervy past. The results of the NBC review were mocked by media watchdogs and NBC employees alike, while former NBC News star Ann Curry declared she did not participate despite telling the Washington Post that she had complained to senior NBC News executives about Lauer’s behavior.
Farrow’s upcoming book about the situation, “Catch and Kill,” is expected to create a whole new batch of negative headlines for NBC News.