NBC & Hillary Team Tried To Kill Ronan Farrow's Weinstein Story
Ronan Farrow Strikes Again: A New Book Targets NBC News and How Harvey Weinstein May Have Leveraged Matt Lauer
by Marisa Guthrie October 09, 2019, 5:00am PDT
In his first interview about the explosive 'Catch and Kill,' the journalist reveals fresh claims of secret payouts and how Lauer may have played a role in the network’s decision to kill his 2017 Harvey Weinstein exposé: "I'm very clear about the fact that Harvey was laying siege to NBC."
It was September 2017, and Harvey Weinstein was huddled at a corner table at New York's Loews Regency hotel alongside Dylan Howard, chief content officer of National Enquirer publisher American Media Inc. Weinstein had become increasingly alarmed about a story that Ronan Farrow — then a correspondent for NBC News and most famous for being the son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen — was vigorously pursuing about the powerful producer's long-rumored sexual predations. Weinstein had worked to suppress variations of that story for decades, and he was desperate for it to stay secret. But Farrow (along with a team at The New York Times) was closing in. Weinstein wanted to bully NBC News into killing the story. He needed leverage.
Howard pulled out several thick manila envelopes and laid out their contents on the table. The men huddled for hours, strategizing quietly. Weinstein had found a pressure point: Matt Lauer.
"Weinstein made it known to the network that he was aware of Lauer's behavior and capable of revealing it," Farrow writes in his long-awaited new book, Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators (Little, Brown and Company, Oct. 15). Citing anonymous sources at NBC and AMI, Farrow, 31, claims that Weinstein was using the Enquirer's accumulated dirt on the Today show star's alleged workplace misconduct to pressure NBC executives to kill Farrow's long-gestating Weinstein exposé. (Farrow also includes a denial from NBC that a specific threat was ever communicated. And in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, the network says: "NBC News was never contacted by AMI, or made aware in any way of any threats from them, or from anyone else, for that matter. And the idea of NBC News taking a threat seriously from a tabloid company about Matt Lauer is especially preposterous, since they already covered him with great regularity.")
This tawdry alliance between AMI and Weinstein and their alleged collusion to pressure NBC is just one of the bombshell revelations dropped by New Yorker correspondent Farrow in Catch and Kill. Part memoir, part spy thriller, the book is an engrossing account of the dark arts employed by the powerful to suppress their stockpiled bad behavior as well as the cover-up culture that pervades executive suites — many of them at Farrow's former employer, NBC News.
"The [book documents] a period in which secrets at NBC were under threat of exposure," says Farrow. "And it is very clear from the conversations I document how heavily those secrets weighed on their [reporting] judgment."
It includes new details of Weinstein's personal interactions with NBC News and MSNBC chairman Andy Lack, NBC News president Noah Oppenheim and MSNBC president Phil Griffin (a frequent enough occurrence that Weinstein's assistants who were asked to place phone calls to the men dubbed them "the triumvirate"). More explosively, Farrow uncovers seven allegations of workplace se**** 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 Lauer's ouster, tell their stories in detail.
NBC maintains that it had no knowledge of Lauer's behavior before he was fired. A spokesperson tells THR: "Only following his termination did we reach agreements with two women who had come forward for the very first time, and those women have always been free to share their stories about Lauer with anyone they choose."
The book already has generated much pre-publication anxiety at NBCUniversal ("They're afraid of Ronan," one anchor tells THR), not to mention a series of preemptory legal attacks by those it targets. Lauer has hired attorneys at Clare Locke, which specializes in media crisis and defamation, while Howard has enlisted multiple law firms to send threatening letters to booksellers. Little, Brown has shrugged off these threats, noting that the book has been rigorously fact-checked. (A July call between NBC and fact-checker Sean Lavery, also employed at The New Yorker, stretched on for 10 hours.) In an effort to avoid any leaks, the publisher has gone to great lengths to secure the book's contents before publication. The Hollywood Reporter is one of only a handful of outlets allowed an early read, and even that had to be done in a conference room at Little, Brown's Midtown offices under the gaze of a minder. (Later, the publisher did give me a watermarked copy, which I promised not to read in public.)
On Sept. 26, Farrow joined me in the same conference room where I pored over Catch and Kill for his first interview about the book. It was unseasonably humid for September, and there was a slight gloss on his unlined face. His straw-colored hair was tucked behind his ears as if he was growing it out, or maybe he hadn't had time to get a cut. Framed portraits of Little, Brown authors Keith Richards and Donna Tartt were propped on the window ledge, eyeing us as we talked.
"The story behind the story is not about me, it's about the next reporter who comes along with a tough lead about someone who is deeply enmeshed with an executive chain of command who can hold certain revelations over them," Farrow says. "That is not a unique situation. That happens at news organizations all the time."
Catch and Kill includes some reporting previously published in The New Yorker, which ultimately ran Farrow's devastating exposé featuring eight Weinstein accusers on Oct. 10, 2017, five days after The New York Times broke the story; taken together, these pieces helped to transform the gender politics of Hollywood and, arguably, the world. But the book goes further, drawing on interviews with more than 200 sources, plus hundreds of pages of previously undisclosed contracts, emails and text messages.
A great deal of the narrative tracks how Farrow's Weinstein reporting was halted by NBC News, where he and producer Rich McHugh worked on the story for much of 2017. Farrow portrays a network slow-walking a big break as Weinstein both threatened legal action and worked to ingratiate himself with NBC executives via deals and projects. NBC maintains that Farrow did not have a single accuser on the record, but Farrow writes that NBC stymied his ability to get accusers on the record by citing a potential legal claim of "tortious interference" — which, it argued, could be triggered when one party entices another to break the kind of NDA many Weinstein accusers had signed. Farrow, a lawyer himself, argued that NBC News, in its investigative work, routinely used material from sources with nondisclosure contracts. "Obviously it becomes relevant that they were invoking that very thin logic in light of the fact that I uncovered that they had a pattern of these similar settlements," Farrow says.
Rose McGowan, who sat for an interview in February 2017, did not directly implicate Weinstein at that time because she feared the legal consequences stemming from her NDA. But by late July, Farrow writes, he had convinced her to film another interview in which she would explicitly accuse Weinstein of r***. But NBC's foot-dragging, he writes, spooked McGowan, and by Aug. 2, the network had received a cease-and-desist demand from her attorney. Farrow also obtained the audio recording from a 2015 police sting of Weinstein admitting to assaulting Italian model Ambra Gutierrez. (He reveals that it was Gutierrez who gave it to him.) Farrow says that Gutierrez was willing to go on the record, as was Emily Nestor, who worked as an assistant in The Weinstein Co.'s Los Angeles office.
The book also expands on Farrow's previous account of how, while working on the Weinstein story, his life was upended. He was on the receiving end of all manner of legal harassment, including a howler of a letter from Charles Harder, Weinstein's former attorney, that asserted Farrow's motives were related to his sister Dylan's assault allegations against their father, Woody Allen. "Mr. Farrow is entitled to his private anger," Harder wrote. He also cited Mia Farrow's brother, John Charles Villers-Farrow, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for s******* abusing two boys. "We have yet to find any evidence that Ronan Farrow has publicly denounced his uncle, and he might have publicly supported him," the letter stated. Ronan says he's never met his uncle.
Farrow's phone was tracked and his Instagram account hacked. And as he detailed in The New Yorker, private espionage agents using false identities attempted to obtain information about his reporting. "I had to literally go on the run from people hired to stake me out," he says. He moved out of his Columbus Circle apartment and into a building in Chelsea, where a wealthy friend's father (he won't say who) had several empty floors. "Obviously getting chased around by hired spies is not a normal experience," he says. "It's surreal. It's stressful."
As the work consumed him, he says he neglected his relationship with partner Jon Lovett, the former Obama speechwriter and Pod Save America podcast co-host (to whom the book is dedicated). "He didn't break up with me when I was an insane ball of stress and everything in my life was falling apart and I was needy and demanding all the time," says Farrow. In the book, Lovett offers running commentary that veers from comic relief to outraged bystander. When NBC News informed Farrow, to his shock, that he was "terminated," Lovett quipped, "I'll take care of you, baby. I'll keep you in finery and smoothies." Meanwhile, Farrow was doing his best to shield his mother from the extent of the threats. "She was very scared for me as I was on the run from these spies, and I was trying to tell her as little as possible because none of us wants our mom freaking out," he explains.
In pursuit of the story, he says, "I lost my job and the future I thought I was going to have," recalling how his MSNBC show had just been canceled after a single little-watched season. He did not yet have the Pulitzer he would share with Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. They had not yet helped launch the #MeToo movement.
"I exposed a lot of misconduct that burned bridges, and that's fine, I can take it," he says. "Thankfully, because of the way the story went, I feel like I still have momentum where I can keep breaking stories."
How Harvey Weinstein tried to kill Ronan Farrow story using intel on Matt Lauer from National Enquirer, roping in Hillary Clinton and even his estranged father Woody Allen
- Harvey Weinstein leaned on a number of his high-powered friends to try and kill Ronan Farrow's expose with varying degrees of success
- A publicist for Hillary Clinton told Farrow that his 'big story' was a 'concern for us' when the journalist sought access to the presidential hopeful
- That publicist, Nick Merrill, and Clinton would claim to have no knowledge of Weinstein's s***** misconduct when the expose ran just a few months later
- Farrow claims that NBC killed his story at the network after Weinstein and AMI went after Matt Lauer, using intel compiled by the media company
- 'The idea of NBC News taking a threat seriously from a tabloid company about Matt Lauer is especially preposterous,' said NBC
- Days before the expose dropped, Weinstein even called Farrow's estranged father Woody Allen, who said: 'Jeez, I'm so sorry. Good luck'
PUBLISHED: 14:39 EDT, 9 October 2019 | UPDATED: 19:14 EDT, 9 October 2019
Harvey Weinstein turned to his vast Rolodex of high-powered friends to try and kill Ronan Farrow's expose detailing his decades of s***** misconduct.
The first two went to considerable lengths to try and quash Farrow's reporting, and dossiers detailing allegations of Matt Lauer's s***** misconduct during his time on Today did play a role in NBC killing the story while he was at the network, claims Farrow.
Clinton did her best too says Farrow, who recounts being told his 'big story' was a 'concern for us' by the then-presidential hopeful's publicist Nick Merrill.
He also claims that the campaign withheld access to Clinton at a time when Farrow was trying to interview her for the foreign policy book he was working on at the time.
Attempts to rope in Farrow's family were much less successful, including a call to Farrow's estranged father Woody Allen.
'Jeez, I'm so sorry. Good luck,' Allen told Weinstein, explaining that there was nothing he could do to stop the story.
Farrow published his expose on Weinstein five days after The New York Times.
His reporting was aided at the time by work previously done for the New Yorker by Ken Auletta, who had learned of a number of incidents involving the mogul in the early aughts.
Farrow would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize for his work.
HILLARY CLINTON AND STAFF
Farrow's claims about Clinton and AMI were first reported by The New York Times in a story that cited separate specific incidents.
In that story, from December 2017, Merrill was asked bout Weinstein's behavior, and said: 'We were shocked when we learned what he’d done. It’s despicable behavior, and the women that have come forward have shown enormous courage.'
Mamma Mia: Farrow's sister and uncle were named in a letter from Weinstein's lawyer
That would have been months after he referenced Farrow's 'big story.'
The Times reported that Lena Dunham told multiple members of Clinton's staff about Weinstein's behavior well before the publication of both exposes.
'I just want you to let you know that Harvey’s a ****** and this is going to come out at some point,' said Dunham.
'I think it’s a really bad idea for him to host fund-raisers and be involved because it’s an open secret in Hollywood that he has a problem with s***** assault.'
Dunham was assured her concerns would be relayed to campaign manager Robby Mook, but later shared her story again with a spokesperson when the campaign continued to have Weinstein spearhead events and fundraisers for Clinton.
Merrill, when confronted with Dunham's recollections, said: 'As to claims about a warning, that’s something staff wouldn’t forget.'
AMERICAN MEDIA AND DYLAN HOWARD
The Times report also noted how AMI utilized the practice of 'catch and kill' to make sure that Weinstein accuser Ambra Battilana Gutierrez could not share her allegations of ****** misconduct.
Farrow claims that NBC killed his story after an hours-long strategy session between AMI's chief content officer Dylan Howard and Weinstein.
Howard came to that meeting with a trove of information about NBC in dossiers, and in the end Weinstein chose to use Lauer to kill the story according to Farrow.
'Weinstein made it known to the network that he was aware of Lauer's behavior and capable of revealing it,' writes Farrow in his book.
AMI does not deny this relationship with Weinstein, and has stated previously that any work done of his behalf took place before any allegations of ****** misconduct became public.
'NBC News was never contacted by AMI, or made aware in any way of any threats from them, or from anyone else, for that matter,' said a spokesperson for the network.
'And the idea of NBC News taking a threat seriously from a tabloid company about Matt Lauer is especially preposterous, since they already covered him with great regularity. NBC meanwhile scoffed at Farrow's claim that a tabloid's threat would be powerful enough to shut down a project at the network.'
Weinstein's lawyer tried to get Farrow to kill his own story with a letter referencing various members of his family, recalls the journalist.
In that letter, Charles Harder 'asserted Farrow's motives were related to his sister Dylan's assault allegations against their father, Woody Allen.
Harder wrote: 'Mr. Farrow is entitled to his private anger.'
ANDY LACK MEMO TO STAFF ON RONAN FARROW
Farrow's book makes new allegations about how NBC Chairman Andrew Lack handled the Weinstein scandal and his attempts to report on it
This morning, reporting around Ronan Farrow’s new book revealed deeply disturbing details related to the incident that led to Matt Lauer’s termination from NBC. I want to take a moment to communicate with you about this.
First, and most importantly, in reading today’s news our hearts go out to our former colleague.
Matt Lauer’s conduct in 2014 was appalling and reprehensible – and of course we said so at the time. The first moment we learned of it was the night of November 27, 2017, and he was fired in 24 hours. Any suggestion that we knew prior to that evening or tried to cover up any aspect of Lauer's conduct is absolutely false and offensive.
Following Lauer’s firing, NBCU's legal team did an exhaustive investigation of available records and conducted dozens of interviews of past and present staff. They uncovered no claims or settlements associated with allegations of inappropriate conduct by Lauer before he was fired. Only following his termination did NBCU reach agreements with two women who had come forward for the very first time, and those women have always been free to share their stories about Lauer with anyone they choose.
Today, some have questioned why we used the term “****** misconduct” to describe the reason for Lauer’s firing in the days following. We chose those words carefully to precisely mirror the public words at that time of the attorney representing our former NBC colleague.
In the past two years we have taken significant steps to improve our culture and ensure we have a workplace where everyone feels safe and respected, as well as protected in raising claims. Since then, we've required all NBC News employees to complete in-person workplace behavior trainings and we’ve significantly increased awareness of the ways employees can report concerns – anonymously or otherwise.
In addition to his reporting on Lauer, Farrow’s new book also includes his telling of the NBC News investigation of Harvey Weinstein.
As you know, our news organization is filled with dedicated, professional journalists, including some of the best and most experienced investigative reporters, as well as others who support our reporting with exceptional talent, integrity and decency. 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. He uses a variety of tactics to paint a fundamentally untrue picture.
Here are the essential and indisputable facts: NBC News assigned the Harvey Weinstein story to Ronan, we completely supported it over many months with resources – both financial and editorial. After seven months, without one victim or witness on the record, he simply didn’t have a story that met our standard for broadcast nor that of any major news organization. Not willing to accept that standard and not wanting to get beaten by the New York Times, he asked to take his story to an outlet he claimed was ready to publish right away. Reluctantly, we allowed him to go ahead. Fifty-three days later, and five days after the New York Times did indeed break the story, he published an article at the New Yorker that bore little resemblance to the re