NBC News president Noah Oppenheim’s contract was reportedly renewed by the Peacock Network despite an onslaught of negative attention surrounding Ronan Farrow’s “Catch and Kill,” which paints Oppenheim as a key figure in NBC’s decision not to run his expose on Harvey Weinstein.
Farrow’s former NBC News producer Rich McHugh, who accused Oppenheim and his boss Andy Lack of a “massive breach of journalistic integrity” in a scathing Vanity Fair column earlier this month, slammed the network's parent company for its vote of confidence.
“I take it that no Comcast board member has read Ronan’s book or my article. I am sad for all NBC News employees that the status quo has been blessed,” McHugh told Fox News.
Former NBC News correspondent Linda Vester agreed.
“Comcast/NBC Universal is extending the contract of an individual who lied to staff and shareholders when he said they ‘have no secrets and nothing to hide.’ Not only does it encourage harassment victims to start telling those secrets, it invites a shareholder lawsuit against Comcast,” Vester told Fox News. “In my view, shareholders could sue the company for breach of fiduciary duty by using corporate assets to make secret payoffs for personal wrongs. What shareholder would agree to Comcast secretly using their money for coverups?”
Vester is a vocal critic of the Peacock Network’s culture since she accused Tom Brokaw of sexual misconduct last year (a claim Brokaw denied). Vester is part of a high-powered group of women who have called for a new investigation into alleged misconduct at the network.
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, as Oppenheim has been at the center of numerous controversies in recent memory. In addition to the Weinstein scandal, Oppenheim was recently mocked by his own staffers when fielding questions about his knowledge of Matt Lauer’s alleged misconduct, while controversial columns he wrote in college were unearthed earlier this month.
"The contract renewal is a strong endorsement for an executive who has been at the center of such a controversy. These contracts are typically renewed for several years at a time, and Mr. Oppenheim is expected to succeed [NBC News chairman Andy] Lack after the 2020 presidential election,” The Wall Street Journal wrote.
NBC News did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation.
NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke currently plans for Oppenheim to succeed Lack, according to the Journal. However, an NBCUniversal insider told Fox News that Burke is “extremely fickle” and has given extensions to executives before shortly before firing them in the past.
An online petition urging NBC News to fire Oppenheim has nearly 10,000 signatures.
“I take it that no Comcast board member has read Ronan’s book or my article. I am sad for all NBC News employees that status quo has been blessed."
Shaunna Thomas, a co-founder of UltraViolet, a leading national women’s organization, recently blasted Oppenheim by name, saying he “failed to hold sexual abusers accountable” and “failed to combat a toxic culture across newsrooms.”
Thomas -- who called for Oppenheim to be fired earlier this month -- blasted the decision.
“It is deeply disturbing that Comcast CEO Brian Roberts would show such poor judgment and renew its contract with Noah Oppenheim knowing full well that he was facing allegations of enabling sexual abusers in the workplace and had a record of silencing survivors and stories of survivors in the newsroom."
“It is deeply disturbing that Comcast CEO Brian Roberts would show such poor judgment and renew its contract with Noah Oppenheim knowing full well that he was facing allegations of enabling sexual abusers in the workplace and had a record of silencing survivors and stories of survivors in the newsroom,” Thomas told Fox News.
“The rot at Comcast clearly goes to the top -- with the media giant caring more about short-term profits than about protecting its employees and safeguarding long-term shareholder value. This is a mistake that Comcast and NBC Universal will regret,” Thomas added.
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. Oppenheim, who moonlights as a Hollywood screenwriter, has been under a microscope as 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 former NBC News anchor Matt 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 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.
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes recently admitted his news division was “embroiled in a very public controversy over its conduct” and appeared to side with Farrow’s reporting over the talking points that have been provided by Oppenheim.
“Ronan Farrow walked out of NBC News after working on the Weinstein story, and within two months published an incredible article at The New Yorker that not only won a Pulitzer, but helped trigger a massive social and cultural reckoning that continues to this day,” Hayes said. “The path of least resistance for those with power was not to cross Weinstein or his army of friends and lawyers.”
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.
“The network clearly has no interest in shifting company culture or protecting victims of sexual violence from further traumatization by NBC, whether it's by killing credibly reported stories or protecting in-house predators. It's abhorrent that Oppenheim is being richly rewarded for his poor management decisions and enabling egregious ethical violations at the network,” Abrams added.
Meanwhile, NBC News has still not explained how the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape of Donald Trump was leaked from within Oppenheim’s new 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.