Embattled NBC News president Noah Oppenheim continues to generate negative publicity for the once-proud news division, this time in a bombshell report claiming he used the network’s flagship “Today” show to line his own pockets.
On Monday, a Wall Street Journal report that NBC had renewed Oppenheim's lucrative contract – despite his roles in the handling of the Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer sexual harassment scandals – sparked widespread outrage both inside and outside 30 Rock.
Less than 24 hours later, The Daily Beast published explosive accusations from NBC staffers who were also “furious” over Oppenheim’s “self-dealing,” which includes enlisting “Today” co-anchor Savannah Guthrie to collaborate with his wife, Allison, on a money-making scheme that has been heavily promoted on the top-rated morning show.
Guthrie and Allison Oppenheim co-wrote two popular children’s books “Princesses Wear Pants” and Princesses Save the World,” which encourage female empowerment. The bestselling books have since been spun-off into an animated series and clothing line, according to The Daily Beast.
“Talent promoting books is one thing, but an executive’s spouse getting to promote her business on a program her husband controls is outrageous and borderline graft,” an NBC News insider told Fox News. “Steve Burke should be ashamed of himself letting the Oppenheims use NBC to line their already golden coffers.”
NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke currently plans for Oppenheim to eventually succeed current NBC News chairman Andy Lack, according to the Journal.
NBC employees have been privately peeved about the arrangement for years, but didn't share their ire until Guthrie reportedly went to bat for Oppenheim amid his ongoing scandals.
The partnership could give Guthrie a financial incentive to defend Oppenheim, who is painted as a key figure in NBC’s decision not to run Ronan Farrow’s award-winning report that exposed Weinstein as a sexual predator throughout his book “Catch and Kill. ”
“The Daily Beast has confirmed that Guthrie and ‘Today’ co-host Hoda Kotb recently defended Oppenheim, and urged that he be kept on, to NBCUniversal chairman Steve Burke,” the Beast reported.
NBCUniversal and NBC News did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Daily Beast pointed out that Oppenheim – who moonlights as a Hollywood screenwriter -- also used “Today” to promote his own projects. The report pointed out that Lauer once joked on-air that Oppenheim’s American history book should have been called “Noah Needs a Summer House.”
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that NBC quietly renewed Oppenheim’s contract, citing “people familiar with the matter.” The reported decision raised eyebrows across the media industry and McHugh said he was “sad” for NBC employees.
“The status quo has been blessed,” McHugh told Fox News.
Oppenheim famously told Farrow that his Weinstein reporting wasn’t fit to print, so Farrow took it to The New Yorker, where it won the Pulitzer Prize and helped launch the #MeToo movement.
Farrow’s book details his version of why NBC refused to expose Weinstein – which includes allegations that the disgraced movie mogul leveraged the knowledge of Lauer’s own misconduct.
The book also suggests Oppenheim wasn’t truthful regarding knowledge of Lauer’s alleged misconduct. Farrow describes Oppenheim as a “doe-eyed stoner whose mellow seemed impossible to harsh” and said they “laughed about his stories of getting high.” Farrow also says he and Oppenheim “planned to spend a night in with some edibles” before their eventual fallout over the Weinstein reporting.
After the Weinstein and Lauer bombshells were reported in 2017, NBC refused to hire an outside investigator to determine who knew about Lauer’s alleged sexual misconduct and whether NBC executives looked the other way. NBC relied on in-house general counsel Kim Harris despite widespread calls for an outside law firm to conduct the review.
NBC eventually declared that management was completely oblivious to Lauer’s behavior and Harris’ high-powered colleagues were cleared by the network.
Oppenheim, who maintains that Farrow simply has “an axe to grind” against NBC, was recently mocked by his own staff when he attempted to field questions from concerned employees as excerpts from Farrow’s book began to surface.
On Monday, author and activist Sil Lai Abrams said her own sexual misconduct bombshell was also shut down by Oppenheim’s news operation.
“Noah Oppenheim's contract renewal is confirmation that NBC is committed to maintaining the toxic environment which led to the network's repeated victimization of survivors of sexual violence,” Abrams told Fox News on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, NBC News has still not explained how the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape of Donald Trump was leaked from within Oppenheim’s news division to the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold -- an old college buddy of Oppenheim.
Fahrenthold, like Farrow, won a Pulitzer Prize for stories that NBC News passed on under Oppenheim. Fahrenthold was later given a paid consultancy with NBC News.
Oppenheim and Fahrenthold attended Harvard University together, but NBC has long denied that Oppenheim leaked the scandalous tape to Fahrenthold.